This content is not available in your region

Ukraine war: destruction of country like razing of Guernica, Zelenskyy tells Spanish lawmakers

Access to the comments Comments
By Alasdair Sandford  with AP, AFP
A teddybear hangs from a branch of a torn tree outside an apartment building in Borodyanka
A teddybear hangs from a branch of a torn tree outside an apartment building in Borodyanka   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda   -  

Russia's war in Ukraine is taking on a new dimension with growing evidence of human rights atrocities by Vladimir Putin's troops, accused of killing civilians in cold blood as they retreated from the Kyiv region.

Moves are afoot to investigate war crimes but there are fears that similar massacres could occur, given Russia's failure to gain control of the country or even any key cities following its invasion on February 24.

Moscow is now concentrating its offensive on eastern and southern Ukraine. Thousands have been killed so far and Russian bombardments have caused widespread devastation. Millions have fled their homes, creating Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The war has deepened the rupture between Russia and the West, which is planning more economic sanctions against Moscow.

Click here for Wednesday's latest updates

See a summary of Tuesday's developments in our blog below:

04.05.2022
19:50

Tuesday's key points:

  • Satellite photographs released on Monday appear to rebut Russian assertions that dead bodies in civilian clothing found in Bucha had appeared there after Russian forces retreated from the devastated Ukrainian town. Moscow has called the reports fake.
  • The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy told UN Security Council members that the Kremlin's troops committed the worst atrocities since World War II.
  • Zelenskyy's spokesperson told Euronews there are fears that similar massacres could occur elsewhere as Russian troops retreat towards Belarus. Ukrainian prosecutor-general has said a “similar humanitarian situation” to Bucha exists in other areas where Russian forces recently left, such as around the northern cities of Sumy and Chernihiv.
  • EU and UK leaders have promised further sanctions against Moscow in the wake of mounting evidence of Russian atrocities against civilians amid the withdrawal from the outskirts of Kyiv.
  • US President Joe Biden has called for a "war crimes trial" in light of the allegations.
  • Ukraine's latest daily military report suggests Russian forces are preparing for a major attack in eastern Ukraine.
  • Germany, France and Lithuania all took action on Monday to expel Russian diplomats. They were followed by Italy, Spain and Sweden on Tuesday.
  • Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated on Monday from the besieged port of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.
04.05.2022
21:26

UK PM Johnson: war in Ukraine 'stain on honour' of Russia

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a direct appeal to the Russian people, urging them to seek the truth about the war.

In a video message, Johnson said Russians were being kept in the dark about the invasion of Ukraine because President Vladimir Putin “knows that if you could see what was happening, you would not support his war.”

Johnson said Russian authorities were hiding the truth of "sickening” slayings of civilians and other crimes, which “betray the trust of every Russian mother who proudly waves goodbye to her son as he heads off to join the military”, calling the war “a stain on the honour of Russia”.

Switching from English to Russian, Johnson said: “Your president stands accused of committing war crimes. But I cannot believe he's acting in your name.”

04.05.2022
20:34

Slovenia, Romania join other countries in expelling Russian diplomats

Authorities in Romania said Tuesday that the country is expelling 10 diplomats from Russia’s embassy in Bucharest.

On Tuesday evening, the Slovenian government also stated that 33 Russian diplomats were being expelled after bodies were found in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where Kyiv has accused Russian forces of a massacre.

Romania’s foreign ministry said the actions of 10 embassy workers, who have been declared persona non grata, “contravene the provisions of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relationships.”

As of Tuesday, more than 200 Russian diplomats or employees had been expelled from at least a dozen countries, including Germany, France and Italy.

04.05.2022
18:21

President Zelenskyy compares war in Ukraine to Guernica massacre

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday compared the war in Ukraine to the massacre in Guernica, a small town in the Spanish Basque Country bombed in 1937 by Nazi aircraft in support of Franco's troops during the Spanish Civil War.

"It's April 2022, but it feels like April 1937, when the world learned about what was happening in one of your cities, Guernica," Ukraine's president said in a live broadcast to the Spanish MPs.

Guernica was bombed by the German Condor Legion, ushering in the era of massive air raids on civilians. The event was immortalized by painter Pablo Picasso in one of the world's most famous canvases, which became an anti-war symbol.

Zelenskyy's address lasted about ten minutes and garnered applause from the deputies and government ministers afterwards.

“As President Zelenskyy said, we would never have thought that we would see images of bombardments and massacres of innocent civilian populations on European soil again,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

04.05.2022
17:43

Zelenskyy tells UN Russian military must be brought to justice

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told the UN Security Council that the Russian military must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes.

In a video appearance Tuesday, Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin's troops of the worst atrocities since World War II and said they are no different from other terrorists like the Islamic State extremist group.

The Ukrainian leader made his plea as grisly evidence continued to emerge of civilian massacres carried out by Russian forces on the outskirts of Kyiv.

The images, particularly from the town of Bucha, have stirred global revulsion and led to demands for tougher sanctions and war crime prosecutions against Russia.

Zelenskyy showed the UN’s most powerful body brief video footage of bloody corpses that ended with the words “Stop Russian Aggression.”

04.05.2022
16:43

Estonia and Lavtia expel Russian diplomats, close consulates 

Estonia and Latvia will close Russia’s consular missions in two cities each and expel a total of 27 Russian diplomats and employees currently stationed in the Baltic countries.

Estonia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the country decided to expel the staff of Russia’s consulates in the southern city of Tartu and border city of Narva and close the premises. The combined 14-member Russian staff, including 7 employees with diplomatic status, must leave the country by April 30, the ministry said.

The ministry’s undersecretary Mart Volmer said “there can be no talk of business as usual” with Moscow following allegations of atrocities against civilians in Ukrainian cities by Russian forces.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rincevics said in a tweet that Latvia will close Russian consulates in Daugavpils and Liepaja and expel 13 Russian diplomats and employees.

Daugavpils is Latvia’s second largest city situated close to the border with Belarus and Lithuania in southeastern Latvia, not very far from the Russian border, and Liepaja is a major port city.

(AP)

04.05.2022
16:22

Spain and EU expel more Russian diplomats

Spain has become the latest EU country to expel Russian diplomats. 

Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said the group represents a threat to Spain’s security, and the timing of the expulsion “is a response to crimes that cannot go unpunished,” in a reference to what he said were “barbaric” Russian war crimes in Ukraine in recent days.

The complete list of who is to be asked to leave the country is being finalised and may amount to more than 25 people, Albares stated.

The European Union is also expelling Russian diplomats, deciding to declare "several" members of the Russian representation to the EU "persona non grata" because of "activities contrary" to their status as diplomats -- which is usually diplomatic code for spying. 

"The Russian ambassador was summoned today by the secretary general of the foreign action service to inform him of this decision," said EU High Representative Josep Borrell, although he didn't specify the number of Russian diplomats affected by this measure.

04.05.2022
15:59

Blinken: "Deliberate campaign to kill, torture, rape"

The US Secretary of State says Russia had a "deliberate campaign to kill, torture, rape" in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where dozens of bodies of civilians were discovered after Kremlin forces withdrew from the area. 

Speaking to reporters before flying to Brussels to meet with European counterparts, Blinken said "What we saw in Bucha is not the isolated act of a rogue unit. It is a deliberate campaign to kill, torture, rape, commit atrocities." 

There has been widespread condemnation of the actions of Russian soldiers, as more evidence is catalogued in Bucha of what happened there. 

Russia denies its military took part in any killings of civilians. 

(Euronews, AFP)

04.05.2022
15:55

Tuesday's key points:

  • Satellite photographs released on Monday appear to rebut Russian assertions that dead bodies in civilian clothing found in Bucha had appeared there after Russian forces retreated from the devastated Ukrainian town. 
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who visited Bucha on Monday, will speak to the UN Security Council for the first time on Tuesday at a meeting certain to focus on what appear to be deliberate killings of civilians by Russian troops.
  • Moscow has claimed the scenes were faked and says it will present evidence to the UN Security Council.
  • Zelenskyy's spokesperson told Euronews there are fears that similar massacres could occur elsewhere as Russian troops retreat towards Belarus. Ukraine's prosecutor-general has said a “similar humanitarian situation” to Bucha exists in other areas where Russian forces recently left, such as around the northern cities of Sumy and Chernihiv.
  • EU leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell will visit Kyiv this week to meet Zelenskyy, the Commission president's spokesman says.
  • The EU, the UK and the US have promised further sanctions against Moscow in the wake of mounting evidence of Russian atrocities. 
  • President Biden branded Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" on Monday and called for a "war crimes trial".
  • Ukraine's latest daily military report suggests Russian forces are preparing for a major attack in eastern Ukraine. The city of Kramatorsk was bombarded overnight.
  • Germany, France and Lithuania all took action on Monday to expel Russian diplomats, followed on Tuesday by Denmark, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
  • Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said seven humanitarian corridors were to open on Tuesday from Mariupol and Berdyansk, addng that more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol on Monday.
04.05.2022
14:49

New EU sanctions 'to hit Russian oil and coal', says France

The new sanctions under discussion within the European Union against Russia "will have to integrate oil and coal", the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday during a visit to Berlin.

"We are working together, France and Germany, to define what this new package (of sanctions) could be, which will have to integrate Russian oil and coal", he said during a joint press conference with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock. "The modalities of their implementation are the subject of discussions today," he added.

However, a Spanish minister said on Tuesday it would be “very hard” for the EU to take measures against Russia’s natural gas sector because some of the bloc’s countries are dependent on it for their energy supply and the EU’s strength lies in its unity.

“It is very difficult to explain to European public opinion and Ukrainian society that we are still importing Russian energy that finances this war” in Ukraine, said Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for ecological transition.

The EU gets around 40% of its natural gas from Russia.

Ribera said the energy imports create “obvious moral tension,” adding that accusations of Russian war crimes in Bucha in recent days increased the pressure on the EU to act.

She said Spain should invest in industrial-scale solar power facilities to improve the EU’s energy self-sufficiency.

(with AFP, AP)

For a summary of Monday's developments, click here.

Additional sources • Reuters