Ukraine war day 41: Russia’s civilian attack in Bucha prompts global outrage and calls for war trials

Ukraine war day 48: war in Ukraine enters a “new stage of terror” amid reports of chemical weapons used by Russia

The latest news from day 48 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On day 48 of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian President has warned of a “new stage of terror” amid unconfirmed reports Vladimir Putin’s forces have used chemical weapons in the besieged city of Mariupol.

Ukrainian fighters and officials claimed on Monday night that some people had suffered symptoms of chemical poisoning, including respiratory failure, after Russian troops deployed an unknown substance.

“We treat this with the utmost seriousness,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement.

The UK has declared that it is investigating the reports of the chemical weapons attack, with foreign secretary Liz Truss promising to hold Vladimir Putin”and his regime to account” if confirmed.

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President Zelenskyy previously issued a warning to Russian leaders that “the end of your life will be behind bars” as the legal basis is being put in place to bring ‘culpable Russian troops’ to justice over alleged atrocities.

“It is now 2022. And we have many more tools than those who prosecuted the Nazis after the second world war”, he said in a nightly address.

Harrowing images of mass civilian killings in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, about 45km north-west of Kyiv, emerged with reports suggesting Russian troops created mass graves, left bodies ‘ to rot in bags like rubbish’ and shot an 89-year-old dead in bed.

The Ukrainian president also addressed western leaders, criticising what he described as delayed action against Russia. “Did hundreds of our people really have to die in agony for some European leaders to finally understand that the Russian state deserves the most severe pressure?” he asked. Referring to military aid, he said: “If we had already got what we needed … we could have saved thousands of people

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the Donbas region of Ukraine, which has been heavily under attack
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the Donbas region of Ukraine, which has been heavily under attack

Zelenskyy said there was information to suggest more than 300 people were killed and tortured in Bucha alone, causing global outrage and leading US President Joe Biden to call Russian president, Vladimir Putin, a “war criminal”.

“We have to gather the information. We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue to fight, and we have to get all the detail [to] have a war crimes trial. This guy is brutal and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous,” Biden said on Monday.

Damage in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv caused by Russian bombs
Damage in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv caused by Russian bombs

Last week, Russia and Ukraine had continued to engage in face-to-face and virtual peace talks with Russia, Zelenskyy repeated a warning that Russia is preparing for “powerful strikes” in the south and eastern Donbas region of the country after NATO’s chief Jens Stoltenberg claimed Russian forces are not withdrawing, but regrouping. 

He also said the alliance had yet to be convinced Russia was negotiating in good faith in peace talks in Istanbul because Moscow’s military objective since launching its invasion of Ukraine had not changed.

Ceasefire discussions previously took place on day four of the invasion on the Ukraine-Belarus border, but no agreements were reached and both sides have played down the chances of a major breakthrough amid the speculation from the UK Ministry of Defence that Russia is deploying troops from Georgia to assist in the fighting.

In response, the UK and its allies agreed to send more lethal military aid to Ukraine to help defence efforts, including armoured vehicles and long-range artillery.

Over a month of shelling, airstrikes and on the ground fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces has so far caused more than $500 billion (£383bn) in damages to Ukraine, according to Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

Peace talks being held in Turkey between Russia and Ukraine
Peace talks being held in Turkey between Russia and Ukraine

Amid the truce talks, Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, has warned those negotiating with Russia not to eat or drink following the reported poisoning of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian negotiators earlier in the month.

In an interview with the Ykpaiha 24 news channel, translated by Sky News, Kuleba said: “I advise anyone going through negotiations with the Russian Federation not to eat or drink anything and preferably avoid touching any surface.”

What is happening in Ukraine right now?

As of 2 April, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had recorded 3,455 civilian casualties in the country: 1,417 killed and 2,038 injured, though on the ground estimates  vary to over 5,000.

While the crucial cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa remain under Ukrainian control, Russian forces have been said to be just 20 miles from Kyiv, with satellite images previously showing a 3.25-mile-long deployment of Russian forces advancing towards the city.

However, the UK Ministry of Defence has said Ukraine’s capital remains a target for Russian troops, though counter-attacks have met with some success.

“Russia still poses a significant threat to the city through their strike capability,” the intelligence update read. “Russian forces are maintaining blocking positions while attempting to reorganise and reset their forces.”

The port city of Mariupol in the south-east of Ukraine has been devastated by Russian shelling, with reports suggesting some 5,000 civilians have been forcibly relocated by Russian forces.

Videos circulating on social media have shown widespread destruction, with buildings decimated and streets left covered in shrapnel. 

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Liz Truss, the UK foreign secretary, accused Putin’s forces of abducting innocent civilians, describing the move as an “abhorrent tactic” after the Ukrainian human rights group ZMINA claimed to have identified dozens of individuals who had been abducted, with thousands more deported to Russia.

According to the Ukraine prosecutor general’s office, a total of 144 children have so far been killed and more than 220 injured as a result of Russia’s invasion.

Figures from the United Nations also suggest that over 70,000 children every day have become refugees since the war began and the total number of refugees from Ukraine has surpassed 3.8 million.

How did the war in Ukraine start?

On 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “specialised military operation” in the Donbas region in the south-east of the country, following reports of 190,000 troops and military vehicles stationed for weeks along the Russia/Ukraine border.

According to Putin’s state television address, the attack was motivated by the “protection of the people who for eight years suffered from abuse and genocide from the Kyiv regime”.

“Moscow has been left with no choice but to defend itself,” he told Russian citizens. “Whoever tries to stand in our way or create threats for our country and people should know Russia’s response will be immediate and lead you to consequences you have never encountered in your history.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022

Major nations, including the UK and the United States, have continued to condemn the “appalling and unprovoked attack”.

In a statement, NATO condemned “in the strongest possible terms Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine – which is an independent, peaceful and democratic country, and a close NATO partner.

“The Alliance calls on President Putin to stop this war immediately, withdraw all his forces from Ukraine without conditions and engage in genuine diplomacy,” it said in a statement.

In response to the continued attacks, the United States and its allies are said to be working on new sanctions to hit a broader range of sectors across Russia’s economy, including those that are critical to sustaining its invasion of Ukraine, such as supply chains.

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Along with pro-Ukrainian rallies held across the world, Russian activists and journalists speaking out against their country have had their homes vandalised by unknown pro-Kremlin figures.

Reports have been building of Russians opposing the war being targeted by law enforcement, with more than 2,000 arrests during protests at the beginning of the invasion.

Marina Ovsyannikova, a Russian journalist who staged a protest against the war in Ukraine live on TV, also spoke out about her experience after she was detained for 14 hours and fined by police.

“It was my own anti-war decision,” she explained. “I made this decision by myself because I don’t like that Russia started this invasion.” 

Marina Ovsyannikova protests the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Marina Ovsyannikova protests the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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