Russia-Ukraine latest updates: Germany to expel Russian envoys

Ukraine news from April 4: Moscow promises to respond to decisions made by France and Germany to expel diplomats.

Local residents walk past a building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol,
Residents walk past a building destroyed during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]
  • US President Joe Biden has called for his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to face trial over alleged war crimes in Ukraine as Western outrage mounts over reports of a massacre near Kyiv.
  • Kremlin denies Ukrainian allegations of Bucha killings while the United Nations and European Union call for an immediate probe.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says it has become harder for Kyiv to negotiate with Moscow because of the scale of alleged atrocities carried out by Moscow’s troops.
  • Red Cross says it has been unable to enter the besieged, southeastern port city of Mariupol due to “security conditions” in the area as the latest evacuation attempt falters.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 40

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These were the updates on April 4:

‘Symmetrical’ reaction to expulsion of diplomats to follow: Former Russia president

Dmitry Medvedev has promised a harsh reaction to the expulsion of Russian diplomats by Western governments.

“It will be symmetrical and destructive for bilateral relations,” Medvedev, who is deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, wrote on his Telegram channel.

He added that expelling diplomats as a means of pressure is a practice that is “senseless” and “leads nowhere”.

US approves sale of eight F-16 combat aircraft to Bulgaria

The US defence department approved the sale of eight F-16 combat aircraft to Bulgaria for $1.67bn.

“The proposed sale will improve Bulgaria’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling the Bulgarian Air Force to deploy modern fighter aircraft routinely in the Black Sea region,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.

The sale approval came amid continuing speculation that one of Washington’s NATO allies could provide Ukraine with MIG-29 aircraft to fight Russian forces.

Russia likely to send thousands of soldiers to eastern Ukraine: US

Russia probably plans to “deploy tens of thousands of soldiers” to eastern Ukraine as it shifts its focus to the country’s south and east, President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

“At this juncture we believe Russia is revising its war aims” to focus on “eastern and parts of southern Ukraine rather than target most of the territory,” Sullivan told reporters at the White House.

More than 1,500 civilians evacuated from Mariupol

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated from the besieged port of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.

Vereshchuk said a total of 2,405 people were evacuated along a humanitarian corridor route running from Mariupol to the Ukraine-held city of Zaporizhzhia, with 1,553 of those coming from Mariupol itself and the rest from other locations in the heavily contested area.

She said the people used the dwindling number of private vehicles left in the area to get out of the city and that a convoy of seven buses sent to help remained unable to enter the city to collect people.

A man is seen walking near a ruined apartment block on the outskirts of Mariupol
A man walks with his dog near an apartment building damaged by shelling from fighting on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine [File: Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo]

US to announce new sanctions against Russia this week

The United States will announce new sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine this week, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said.

“You can expect further sanctions announcements this week,” Sullivan told reporters. He said that discussions about sanctions with European allies include “options that relate to energy”.

The US will also make announcements of additional military assistance for Ukraine in the coming days, Sullivan added.

Kyiv mayor calls on residents who fled not to return yet

The mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko has called on the residents of the Ukrainian capital who fled the conflict in the city not to return for “at least another week”.

“First, there is a round-the-clock curfew in several districts of Kyiv region. Also in the cities near the capital, where the fighting continued, a large number of explosive devices were found – which can pose a great threat,” he said.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine war Refugees DAY 40 April 3 7GMT

Ten civilians killed, 46 wounded in bombardment of Mykolaiv: mayor

Ten civilians were killed and 46 wounded in the Russian bombardment of the Ukrainian town of Mykolaiv, the town’s mayor Oleksandr Senkevich has said in a video statement.

A first strike by the Russian army at 04:00 GMT left “one dead and five wounded, including two seriously,” before another in which “nine people were killed and 41 others wounded,” he said, adding the number of casualties could still rise.

Russia says ‘unfriendly’ German expulsion of diplomats will worsen ties

Moscow has said that a decision by Germany to expel a number of Russian diplomats in response to Russia’s offensive in Ukraine was “unfriendly” and would worsen ties.

“The unfounded reduction in the number of diplomatic staff at Russian missions in Germany will narrow the space for maintaining dialogue between our countries, which will lead to a further deterioration in Russian-German relations,” the Russian embassy in Berlin said in a statement posted on Telegram.

US supporting team of international prosecutors collecting evidence on atrocities in Ukraine

The US, at the request of Ukraine, is supporting a multinational team of international prosecutors to the region to help collect and analyse evidence of atrocities with a view toward pursuing accountability, the state department has said.

“We are tracking and documenting atrocities and sharing information with institutions working to hold responsible those accountable,” state department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

Bodies of five men found in a basement in Bucha: prosecutor

Bodies of five men tortured and killed by Russian troops were found in a basement of a children’s health resort, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office has said in a statement on Telegram.

“In the basement of one of the children’s sanatoriums, police found the bodies of five men with their hands tied,” the statement said.

“Soldiers of the Russian Armed Forces tortured and killed unarmed civilians”, it added.

Ukraine says ICRC convoy is still blocked in eastern town

An evacuation convoy escorted by the International Committee of the Red Cross is still blocked in the eastern town of Manhush, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said.

Earlier an ICRC spokesperson said one of its teams had been stopped during an attempt to reach the besieged city of Mariupol, which is encircled by Russian troops, and was being held.

Moscow to respond to expulsion of its diplomats from France

Moscow will respond to France’s decision to expel Russian diplomats, Interfax news agency has reported, citing the Russian foreign ministry.

France has decided to expel many Russian diplomatic staff, echoing a similar action taken by Germany.

Russia backs self-proclaimed pro-Kremlin mayor in Mariupol, says city council

Russia has backed a self-proclaimed mayor of Ukraine’s southeastern port city of Mariupol who is collaborating with Russian forces, the city council has said in an online post.

Mariupol has been encircled by Russian forces, who have taken control of some of the city, but as of Monday Russia had not succeeded in taking full control, according to the Ukrainian defence ministry.

France to expel Russian diplomatic staff

France has decided to expel many Russian diplomatic staff, echoing a similar action taken by Germany, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said.

“Their actions go against our national security interests. This move [to expel the diplomatic staff] is part of a European initiative,” the ministry said in a statement.

A ministry source, who asked not to be named, said 35 Russian diplomats would be expelled.

Russia’s Lavrov: Biden’s comment on Putin shows some have issue with conscience

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that comments made by US President Joe Biden about Vladimir Putin show some in the West have issues with their conscience.

Biden accused Putin of war crimes and called for a trial, adding to the global outcry over civilian killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha as more graphic images of their deaths emerged.

Lavrov also said Russia will hold a news conference later on Monday in New York to address allegations about its role in the situation in Bucha.

Canada to impose sanctions on nine Russian, nine Belarusian individuals

Canada has said it will impose sanctions on nine Russian and nine Belarusian individuals for having “facilitated and enabled” Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“By enabling [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s senseless invasion of Ukraine, these close collaborators of the regime are complicit in the horrific events unfolding before our eyes,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement.

The individuals are close associates of the Russian and Belarusian regimes, according to the statement.

Ukraine says Russian troops preparing a big attack in the east

Russian troops are preparing for a big attack in the Lugansk region of eastern Ukraine, the local governor Sergiy Gaiday has said on Telegram.

“We see that equipment is coming from different directions, they are bringing manpower, they are bringing fuel,” Gaiday said in a video statement.

“We understand that they are preparing for a full-scale big breakthrough,” he added.

Russia prepares bill seeking jail terms for adhering to sanctions

Russian lawmakers submitted a draft bill to the lower house of parliament, or the Duma, that envisages a prison term of up to 10 years and fines for adhering to Western sanctions in Russia, Interfax state news agency has reported.

The new bill, which needs to be approved by the parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin before it becomes law, aims to prevent a deterioration of Russia’s economic situation, Interfax quoted lawmaker, Pavel Krasheninnikov, as saying.

A number of Russian companies, including firms partially owned by the state, are refusing to work with sanctioned banks and companies because they fear they could land on the sanctions list as well, Krasheninnikov said, according to Interfax.

“If someone in the Russian Federation decides to limit the rights and freedoms of citizens of the Russian Federation, its legal entities, institutions or organisations, then they need to bear criminal responsibility,” Interfax quoted Krasheninnikov as saying.

Egypt says Arab countries willing to mediate between Russia, Ukraine

Arab countries have expressed willingness to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has said, during a press conference in Moscow.

Shoukry is part of an Arab League delegation visiting Moscow to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

UK foreign minister says war crimes have taken place in Ukraine

British foreign minister Liz Truss has said it is “very clear” that war crimes have been committed by Russian military forces against civilians in Ukraine.

“We are all appalled by the scenes in Bucha, the butchery, the clear evidence of sexual crime, of the targeting of innocent civilians and it is very clear that war crimes have taken place,” Truss said at a press conference in Poland.

“Now as to the question of genocide, that is a matter for the courts to determine.”

Apparent ‘war crimes’ in Bucha must be investigated, Amnesty says

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, has said reports from Bucha indicate a ‘wider pattern of war crimes’ that should be investigated.

“These reports from Bucha are showing a wider pattern of war crimes including extrajudicial executions and torture in other occupied areas of Ukraine,” Callamard said.

“We fear the violence suffered by civilians in Bucha at the hands of Russian soldiers is not unique. These incidents should be investigated as war crimes,” she added.

Ukraine president asks Romania for more help

Zelenskyy has asked Romanian lawmakers to step up sanctions pressure on Russia, which he warned posed a threat to all of eastern Europe and the Black Sea region.

Addressing the parliament in Bucharest by video link, Zelenskyy said Ukraine needed further support from foreign allies, including weapons, to counter Russian forces.

“Ukraine is not the last target of Russian aggression. The fate of eastern Europe and the Black Sea region is being decided in Ukraine right now.”

Ukraine foreign minister says Bucha killings are just ‘tip of the iceberg’

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said the evidence of civilian killings from the town of Bucha are just the “tip of the iceberg” and show the need for tougher sanctions on Moscow.

“The horrors that we’ve seen in Bucha are just the tip of the iceberg of all the crimes [that] have been committed by the Russian Army,” Kuleba said.

“Half measures are not enough any more. I demand most severe sanctions this week, this is the plea of the victims of the rapes and killings. If you have doubts about sanctions go to Bucha first.”

US seizes yacht docked in Spain owned by Russian oligarch

The United States government has seized a mega-yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch with close ties to the Russian president, the first in the government’s sanctions enforcement initiative to “seize and freeze” giant boats and other pricey assets of Russian elites.

The US had issued a seizure warrant for the vessel, named the Tango, alleging it “was subject to forfeiture based on violation of U.S. bank fraud, money laundering, and sanction statutes,” the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

Read more here.

Pentagon can’t ‘independently confirm’ atrocities in Bucha, official says

The United States military is not in a position to independently confirm Ukrainian accounts of atrocities by Russian forces against civilians in the town of Bucha, but has no reason to dispute the accounts either, a senior US defence official has said.

“We’re seeing the same imagery that you are. We have no reason whatsoever to refute the Ukrainian claims about these atrocities – clearly, deeply, deeply troubling,” the official told reporters at a Pentagon briefing on condition of anonymity.

“The Pentagon can’t independently and single-handedly confirm that, but we’re also not in any position to refute those claims.”

Ukraine accuses Russian forces of blocking Mariupol evacuation efforts

Buses meant for the rescue of civilians from Mariupol have not been able to reach the city, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has said.

Iryna Vereshchuk said in a televised address that Russian forces were blocking efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to safely evacuate people to elsewhere in Ukraine.

Efforts to organise mass evacuations from Mariupol have repeatedly faltered in recent weeks, with both sides trading blame for the failures.

A man walks with his dog near an apartment building damaged by shelling from fighting on the outskirts of Mariupol
Russian forces have bombarded Mariupol for weeks, reducing swathes of the city to rubble [File: Alexei Alexandrov/AP]

Biden calls for Putin to face war crimes trial

The US president has called for his Russian counterpart to be put on trial for war crimes charges and said the US will impose more sanctions on Moscow in response to the alleged massacre of civilians in Bucha.

“What’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone has seen it,” Biden told reporters, before again calling Putin “a war criminal”.

He added Washington was going to “add” further sanctions against Russia.

Bucha killings: ‘The world cannot be tricked anymore’

Analysts say alleged atrocities in Ukraine by Russian forces are a wake-up call and unveil mass killings that amount to war crimes.

Read more here.

UN rights chief demands Bucha inquiry

The UN’s high commissioner for human rights has called for “independent and effective investigations” into the reports of Russian forces killing civilians in Bucha.

Michelle Bachelet said in a statement that she was “horrified by the images of civilians lying dead on the streets and in improvised graves”.

“It is vital that all efforts are made to ensure there are independent and effective investigations into what happened in Bucha to ensure truth, justice and accountability, as well as reparations and remedy for victims and their families,” she said.

Bachelet added that “reports emerging from this and other areas raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes, grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law.”

Can Russia’s promise of fewer attacks be trusted?

Russia has promised to scale back its offensive around Kyiv, with a stated aim of building trust in the diplomatic process.

It says it is now focusing on the east of the county, but amid fresh accusations that Moscow has committed atrocities near the capital, analysts are far from certain that Russia can be trusted.

Read more here.

A mass grave is seen behind a church in the town of Bucha
A mass grave is seen behind a church in Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv [Sergei Supinsky/AFP]

EU offers investigators to probe possible war crimes

The EU is ready to send a team of investigators to gather evidence of possible war crimes by Russian forces, the head of the bloc’s executive arm has said.

“Eurojust and Europol will support,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, referring to EU law enforcement organisations.

Lithuania expels Russian ambassador

Lithuania has moved to expel Russia’s ambassador to the country, its foreign minister says.

“Russian ambassador was asked to leave Lithuania,” Gabrielius Landsbergis tweeted. “Lithuanian ambassador in Ukraine is coming back to Kyiv.”

He added in a statement that Lithuania “stands in full solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, who are victims of Russia’s unprecedented aggression”.

Kyiv mayor urges residents to delay return to the capital

Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko has urged residents who evacuated from the city amid Russia’s offensive to wait several more days before returning, warning their route back could be unsafe.

“Firstly, there is currently a round-the-clock curfew in [the] Kyiv region. Secondly, in certain … towns near Kyiv, its likely that Russian occupiers left landmines, and there are (likely) a lot of unexploded munitions,” Klitschko said.

Mariupol ’90 percent’ destroyed, mayor says

Russia’s relentless bombardment of Mariupol in recent weeks has destroyed nearly all of the city’s infrastructure, its mayor has said.

“The sad news is that 90 percent of the infrastructure in the city is destroyed and 40 percent is unrecoverable,” Vadym Boichenko told a news conference.

He added that about 130,000 people remain trapped in the city, where they face increasingly desperate conditions as stocks of vital supplies dwindle.

Ukrainian official says Russia may have broken Geneva Conventions

Returning Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) believe their treatment by Russia while in captivity broke the Geneva Conventions, according to Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman.

Lyudmyla Denisova said some former prisoners had reported that they had been kept in basements, denied food and made to take off their uniforms.

The Geneva Conventions establish international legal standards for humanitarian treatment in war. Russia did not immediately respond to Denisova’s comments.

Zelenskyy says Russian actions in Ukraine make negotiations harder

Ukraine’s president says it has become harder for Ukraine to negotiate with Russia because of the scale of alleged atrocities carried out by Moscow’s troops.

“It’s very difficult to conduct negotiations when you see what they did here,” Zelenskyy said during a visit to Bucha.

He added that in the town and other places “dead people have been found in barrels, basements, strangled, [and] tortured.”

“These are war crimes and will be recognised by the world as genocide,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian official says Kyiv investigating alleged ‘war crimes’

Ukraine’s prosecutor general has accused Russian forces of carrying out a number of “crimes against humanity” and says Kyiv is investigating a number of cases involving their actions in the region around Ukraine’s capital.

Speaking on national television, Iryna Venediktova said the situation in the town of Borodyanka was the worst in the Kyiv region in terms of the number of victims. She gave no further details.

Lavrov accuses Ukraine of ‘stage-managed provocation’

Russia’s foreign minister has dismissed Ukrainian accusations that Moscow’s forces committed atrocities against civilians, calling Kyiv’s claims of a massacre in Bucha a “stage-managed anti-Russian provocation”.

Sergey Lavrov said at the start of his talks with UN Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths that the Ukrainian allegations were a “direct threat to global peace and security”.

He also pledged Russia would press ahead with its attempt to convene the UN Security Council (UNSC) after its initial request for an urgent meeting of the body was rejected by the United Kingdom, which currently holds the council’s rotating presidency.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference following talks with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer in Moscow
Lavrov called Kyiv’s allegations a ‘direct threat to global peace and security’ [File: Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool via Reuters]

Russia imposes visa restrictions on citizens of ‘unfriendly countries’

Putin has signed a decree to introduce visa restrictions for citizens of countries that Moscow deems “unfriendly”.

The decree, which comes into force immediately, suspends the simplified visa issuance regime Russia has with some European Union countries as well as with Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland.

Red Cross unable to enter Mariupol due to ‘security conditions’

ICRC staff have again been unable to enter Mariupol, a spokesperson for the aid agency says.

Jason Straziuso told the Reuters news agency that the latest effort to deliver aid to the besieged, southeastern port city and evacuate civilians from there had been hampered by “security conditions” in the area.

Several previous attempts by the ICRC to reach Mariupol over recent days and weeks have also proved unsuccessful.

US pushes to suspend Russia from Human Rights Council

The United States will ask the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, Washington’s ambassador to the world body has said.

“Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce. And it is wrong, which is why we believe it is time the UN General Assembly vote to remove them,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during a visit to Bucharest.

Russia is currently in the second year of a three-year term on the Geneva-based council.

A two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member assembly in New York can suspend a state from the council for persistently committing gross and systematic violations of human rights during its membership.

Russian troops no longer hold any settlements in Sumy, regional governor says

The governor of Ukraine’s northeastern region of Sumy says Russian troops no longer occupy any towns or villages there.

Speaking on national television, Governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyi said Moscow’s forces had mostly withdrawn from the region, which lies on Ukraine’s border with Belarus.

He added Ukrainian troops were working to push out the remaining units and alleged that Russian soldiers had abandoned a lot of equipment as they pulled back.

World reacts to ‘unbearable’ civilian killings in Ukraine

Global outrage is mounting over the discovery of civilian corpses, some with their hands bound, in towns near the Ukrainian capital after invading Russian troops retreated from the region.

Read more here.

Japan denounces ‘acts of violence against civilians’

Japan’s foreign minister has condemned the “exceptionally cruel acts of violence against civilians near Kyiv” in an apparent reference to Russian forces’ alleged killing of non-combatants in Bucha.

“The murder of innocent civilians is a violation of international humanitarian law and is unacceptable and I strongly condemn these acts,” Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters during a visit to Warsaw.

A volunteer inspects a body of a killed person
Ukraine’s prosecutor general says the bodies of 410 civilians have been recovered from areas in the wider Kyiv region [Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters]

‘Sense of horror’ amid reports of civilian killings: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, says there is a “sense of horror” in the country as more bodies continue to be found in Bucha, including in “gardens and alleyways”.

“As [the] Russians withdraw and Ukrainian forces take back territory, places like Bucha, and allow more access to journalists we are seeing more first-hand accounts from people in these places about the way that the Russians acted,” McBride said.

“There are allegations they shot arbitrarily as they advanced… not distinguishing between civilians and military personnel and also that people who were surrendering were also shot, so there are some very strong allegations coming out which the Ukrainians say will be investigated.”

Kremlin denies Ukrainian allegations of Bucha killings

The Kremlin has “categorically” denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the facts and chronology of the events in Bucha did not support Ukraine’s version of events and urged international leaders not to rush to judgment.

“This information must be seriously questioned,” he said. “From what we have seen, our experts have identified signs of video falsification and other fakes.”

Peskov added that Russian diplomats would press on with their efforts to convene a UNSC meeting to discuss what Moscow has called “Ukrainian provocations” in the town despite their first effort to arrange such a meeting being blocked.

Fear grows for migrants held in Ukrainian detention centre

Concerns have been raised about a European Union-funded migrant detention centre near the city of Lutsk, in northwestern Ukraine.

The facility appears to continue to hold an unconfirmed number of migrants despite Russia’s invasion.

Read more here.

Chernihiv governor says some Russian troops still in the region

Some Russian troops are still present in Ukraine’s northern region of Chernihiv, its governor has said.

Viacheslav Chaus said an unspecified number of soldiers remained in the area after pulling back from around the region’s main city of the same name.

Russia said last week it would sharply scale back military activity around Chernihiv and the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Spanish PM: Possible ‘genocide’ in Ukraine

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says he has seen signs of a possible “genocide” in Ukraine after claims that Russian forces committed atrocities against Ukrainian civilians in Bucha.

“We will do everything to ensure that those who have perpetrated these war crimes do not go unpunished, and therefore appear before the courts … to deal with these alleged cases of [crimes against] humanity, war crimes and why not say it too, genocide,” Sanchez told an economic forum in Madrid.

“Putin’s unjustified aggression has brought war back to the gates of the European Union,” he added.

Russia orders inquiry into Ukrainian ‘provocation’ over civilian deaths in Bucha

Russia’s chief investigator says he has ordered an official examination of what he called a Ukrainian “provocation” after Kyiv accused the Russian military of massacring civilians in the town of Bucha.

Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee, ordered that an inquiry be opened on the basis that Ukraine had spread “deliberately false information” about Russian armed forces in Bucha, the committee said in a statement.

Germany main roadblock to tougher Russian sanctions: Poland’s PM

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says Germany is the main roadblock to imposing tougher sanctions on Russia, adding that Hungary was not blocking them.

Morawiecki’s comment comes after Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a national election on Sunday after facing criticism over an insufficiently tough stance on Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“We have to see that, regardless of how we approach Hungary, this is the fourth such win and we have to respect democratic elections … it’s Germany that is the main roadblock on sanctions. Hungary is for the sanctions,” Morawiecki said.

Ukraine: 161 children killed in Russia’s war

Ukrainian prosecutors say at least 161 children have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

Some 425 have been wounded, the prosecutor general’s office said on Facebook.

Most of them lost their lives in the eastern Donetsk region which is partially controlled by separatists and Russian troops (78), around Kyiv (75) and the eastern region of Kharkiv (59), it said.

Macron: New sanctions on Russia needed after Bucha killings

French President Emmanuel Macron says more sanctions on Russia are needed after Ukraine accused Russian forces of killing civilians in Bucha.

Macron told France Inter radio that there were “very clear clues” indicating that Russian forces were responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.

“I’m in favour of a new round of sanctions and in particular on coal and petrol. We need to act,” he said.

Russia on Sunday denied its forces were responsible for the deaths of civilians in the town of Bucha and said Ukraine had staged a performance for the Western media.

INTERACTIVE- Which countries have sanctioned Russia - APRIL 1

Ukraine forces repel Russian attacks in Donetsk, Luhansk regions: Army

Ukraine’s army says they repelled seven Russian attacks overnight in the southeastern Donetsk and Luhansk region, where Russia concentrated its offensive after retreating from around Kyiv.

Ukrainian air defence forces shot down three Russian planes, one helicopter and two cruise missiles, the army said on Facebook.

Ukraine’s agriculture minister warns of global food prices

Ukraine’s agriculture minister says he expects “quite a large harvest” this year and hopes Kyiv will be able to export grain, but warned that continuation of the war would mean higher prices for all countries.

The minister, Mykola Solskyi, said the situation was “difficult” with fuel, which is needed for spring fields.

Russia says footage in Ukraine’s Bucha was ‘ordered’ to blame it

Russia’s foreign ministry says footage of dead civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha had been “ordered” by the United States as part of a plot to blame Russia.

“Who are the masters of provocation? Of course, the United States and NATO,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an interview on state television.

Zakharova said the immediate Western outcry over the images of dead civilians indicated the story had been part of a plan to sully Russia’s reputation.

“In this case, it seems to me that the fact that these statements [about Russia] were made in the first minutes after these materials appeared leaves no doubt as to who ‘ordered’ this story.”

UK says Russian forces continue to refocus their offensive into the Donbas region

British military intelligence says Russian forces are continuing to consolidate and reorganise as they refocus their offensive into the Donbas region in the east of Ukraine.

Russian troops, including mercenaries from the Russian state-linked Wagner private military company, are being moved into the area, the Ministry of Defence tweeted in a regular bulletin.

Serbia’s Vucic says Ukraine crisis had a ‘huge influence’ on presidential election results

Serbia’s President Aleksander Vucic, who claimed a landslide victory in Sunday’s presidential election, says the conflict in Ukraine played a key role in the election outcome.

“The influence of the Ukrainian crisis on the election results was huge,” the president said in his victory speech, adding that Serbia has no plans to deviate from its balancing act between the EU and close ties with Russia and China.

“We will maintain policy that is important for the Europeans, Russians and Americans, and that is … military neutrality,” he said.

“Serbia will try to preserve friendly and partnership relations in many areas with the Russian Federation.”

Pollsters IPSOS and CeSID predict Vucic will end up with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Serbian President and presidential candidate Aleksandar Vucic gestures during a news conference after claiming victory in the presidential election in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, April 3, 2022.
Serbian President and presidential candidate Aleksandar Vucic gestures during a news conference after claiming victory in the presidential election in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, April 3, 2022 [Darko Vojinovic/ AP]

UK’s Johnson pledges to ‘starve Putin’s war machine’ over Bucha killings

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Russia’s attack on Ukrainian civilians in towns on the outskirts of Kyiv “are yet more evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his army are committing war crimes in Ukraine”.

Johnson called the attacks in the towns of Irpin and Bucha “despicable” and said he “will do everything in my power to starve Putin’s war machine”.

Johnson added that the United Kingdom will step up its sanctions and military support for Ukraine, but did not provide details.

NATO’s Stoltenberg condemns Bucha killings

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, has said that the graphic images coming out of Bucha after Russian troops withdrew show “a brutality against civilians we haven’t seen in Europe for decades”.

He told broadcaster CNN’s State of the Union that “it’s absolutely unacceptable that civilians are targeted and killed” and that it was Putin’s responsibility to stop the war.

Stoltenberg said it was “extremely important” that the International Criminal Court open an investigation into potential war crimes in Ukraine and that those responsible are held to account.

Russian forces withdrawing from Sumy: Governor

Russian forces are withdrawing from northeastern Sumy and are taking their equipment with them, according to the region’s governor.

In a Telegram post, Dmytro Zhyvytsky said Ukrainian forces had pushed the Russian troops out, but warned that small groups of soldiers may still remain.

Al Jazeera could not verify the report independently.

Several killed in Kharkiv attack

Russian shelling of Kharkiv has killed at least seven people and wounded 34, including three children, according to the city’s prosecutor’s office.

In a Telegram post, the prosecutor’s office said 10 houses and a trolleybus depot were damaged in the attack on Sunday evening.

Al Jazeera could not verify the report independently.

UN confirms 1,417 civilian deaths in Ukraine

The UN human rights office says it has verified 1,417 civilian deaths in Ukraine, but says the actual toll is “considerably higher” as figures from areas such as Mariupol and Irpin are yet to be corroborated.

In its latest update, the agency said the victims include 121 children. It added that 2,038 others have been wounded.

Polish leader calls for more weapons after Bucha killings

Polish President Andrzej Duda has called on Western allies to provide more weapons to Ukraine after the discovery of hundreds of bodies in areas occupied by Russian troops.

“Pictures from Bucha disprove the belief that we have to seek a compromise at any cost,” Duda wrote on Twitter. “In fact, the Defenders of Ukraine need three things above all: weapons, weapons and more weapons.”

Zelenskyy pledges to continue Russia talks despite atrocities in Ukraine

Ukraine’s president has told the CBS network that he remained committed to peace talks with Russia despite the “atrocities” Russian forces were committing in his country.

“It’s difficult to say how, after all what has been done, we can have any kind of negotiations with Russia. That’s on the personal level. But as a president, I have to do it. Any war has to end,” he said in an excerpt of the interview posted on Facebook.

“There’s no any other way, but the dialogue, if we don’t want hundreds of thousands, millions to die.”

Zelenskyy appeals for support in Grammy video appearance

Ukraine’s president has appeared in a video aired at the Grammy Awards in the US and appealed to viewers to support Ukrainians “in any way you can.”

“What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people,” said Zelenskyy in the video that aired ahead of a performance by John Legend and Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimchuk.

“Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today, to tell our story. Support us in any way you can. Any, but not silence,” he said.

Israel condemns killings in Bucha

Israel’s foreign minister is condemning the reported atrocities in Ukraine, saying deliberate harm to civilians is a war crime.

Foreign minister Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter that “it is impossible to remain indifferent in the face of the horrific images from the city of Bucha, near Kiev, from after the Russian army left”.

He added, “Intentionally harming a civilian population is a war crime and I strongly condemn it.”

Germany registers more than 300,000 refugees from Ukraine

Germany’s interior ministry says the country’s federal police have registered 303,474 refugees from Ukraine since the Russian invasion.

“Most of them are women, children and old people.”

Hungary’s Orban mocks Zelenskyy after election victory

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has won a fourth consecutive term in office after a campaign overshadowed by the war in Ukraine.

Addressing a jubilant crowd in Budapest, Orban said Sunday’s victory had come against all odds.

“We never had so many opponents,” the 58-year-old said, reeling off a list that comprised “Brussels bureaucrats … the international mainstream media, and finally the Ukrainian president.”

Zelenskyy has singled Orban out for criticism over his reticence to take a tougher stance against Russia.

Read more here.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban celebrates on stage with members of the Fidesz party at their election base, 'Balna' building on the bank of the Danube River of Budapest, on April 3, 2022.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban celebrates on stage with members of the Fidesz party at their election base, the Balna building on the bank of the Danube river in Budapest, on April 3, 2022 [Attila Kisbenedek/ AFP]

Ukraine military claims control of towns in Chernihiv region

The Ukrainian military says that its forces have retaken some towns in the Chernihiv region and that humanitarian aid is being delivered.

The news agency RBK Ukraina says the road between Chernihiv and the capital of Kyiv is to reopen to some traffic later on Monday.

Chernihiv is a city 80 miles (129km) north of Kyiv and it had been cut off from shipments of food and other supplies for weeks. Its mayor has said that relentless Russian shelling had destroyed 70 percent of the city.

Italy politician calls for Russian oil embargo over Bucha killings

The head of Italy’s Democratic Party has called for a full oil and gas embargo in reaction to images emerging of atrocities against civilians by Russian soldiers retreating from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

“How many #Bucha before we move to a full oil and gas Russia embargo,” Enrico Letta wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Time is over.”

Italy gets 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia and officials have said it would take three years to make the transition to other sources.

Russia must be held accountable for Ukraine civilian deaths: Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the “egregious and appalling” killings of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, saying Russia must be held to account.

“We strongly condemn the murder of civilians in Ukraine, remain committed to holding the Russian regime accountable,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.

“Those responsible for these egregious and appalling attacks will be brought to justice,” he added.

EU must discuss import ban on Russian gas: German minister

Germany’s defence minister has said the EU must discuss banning the import of Russian gas after Ukrainian and European officials accused Russian forces of committing atrocities near Kyiv.

“There has to be a response. Such crimes must not remain unanswered,” the defence ministry quoted Christine Lambrecht as saying in an interview with the public broadcaster, ARD.

Earlier, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Western allies would agree to further sanctions on Russia in the coming days.

INTERACTIVE - Russian gas imports in 2019

Satellite images show Bucha mass grave site

Satellite images of the Ukrainian town of Bucha show an approximately 45-foot-long (14-metre) trench dug into the grounds of a church where a mass grave has been identified, a private US company has said.

The images, captured on March 31, followed previous imagery from March 10 that show signs of excavation on the grounds of the Church of St Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints, Maxar Technologies said.

Satelite image shows mass grave site
A satellite image shows the grave site with an approximately 45-foot-long trench in Bucha, Ukraine, March 31, 2022 [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]

Russia says Kyiv attempts to disrupt peace talks with Bucha ‘provocation’

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says Moscow requested a UN Security Council meeting to discuss Kyiv’s attempts to disrupt peace talks and escalate violence with a “provocation” in Bucha.

“Russian Federation requested a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in connection with the provocation of the Ukrainian military and radicals in the city of Bucha,” Zakharova wrote on her Telegram channel.

“The idea behind the next crime of the ‘Kyiv’s regime’ is the disruption of peace negotiations and the escalation of violence.”

UK military intelligence says heavy fighting continues in Mariupol

Heavy fighting has continued in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol as Russian forces attempt to take the strategic port city, British military intelligence has said.

“The city continues to be subject to intense, indiscriminate strikes but Ukrainian forces maintain a staunch resistance, retaining control in central areas,” the Ministry of Defence said.

UN chief urges independent probe of civilian deaths

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he is “deeply shocked” by images of dead civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, and called for an independent investigation that “leads to effective accountability”.

Guterres posted his comments on Twitter a day after witnesses and officials said that Russian troops killed hundreds of civilians as they withdrew from the town near Kyiv.

“I am deeply shocked by the images of civilians killed in Bucha, Ukraine,” Guterres said, joining Western officials in expressing outrage.

“It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability,” he said.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Sunday, April 3 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies