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Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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By Reuters

– Artillery pounded key cities in Ukraine on Wednesday, as its president urged the West to act decisively in imposing new and tougher sanctions being readied against Russia in response to civilian killings widely condemned as war crimes.

ECONOMY

* The United States targeted Russian banks and elites with a new package of sanctions, including banning Americans from investing in Russia and sanctioning President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters.

* European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said there were more EU sanctions to come. “These sanctions (announced on Tuesday) will not be our last,” she said. “Now we have to look into oil and revenues Russia gets from fossil fuels.”

* Hungary said it was prepared to pay roubles for Russian gas, breaking ranks with the European Union which has sought a united front in opposing Moscow’s demand for payment in the currency.

* Russia edged closer to a potential default on its international debt as it paid dollar bondholders in roubles and said it would continue to do so as long as its foreign exchange reserves are blocked by sanctions.

FIGHTING

* Heavy fighting and Russian air strikes continue in the encircled Ukrainian city of Mariupol, British military intelligence said.

* Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said authorities would try to evacuate trapped civilians through 11 humanitarian corridors, though people trying to flee Mariupol would have to use their own vehicles.

* Ten high-rise buildings are on fire in Sievierodonetsk after Russian forces shelled the eastern Ukrainian town on Wednesday, the regional governor said in an online post that could not immediately be verified.

BUCHADEATHS

* The Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman said between 150 and 300 bodies may be in a mass grave by a church in the northern town of Bucha, where Ukraine accuses Russian troops of killing civilians.

* Russia’s foreign ministry said that images of dead bodies strewn across Bucha, which Moscow says were staged, were designed to justify more sanctions against Moscow and derail peace talks with Kyiv.

QUOTES

* “When we are hearing new rhetoric about sanctions… I can’t tolerate any (Western) indecisiveness after everything that Russian troops have done,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.

“The only way to avert Russian war expanding beyond Ukraine is to provide us with the fullest support. Maximum sanctions. All the weapons,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

“Recent news from the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, brought new atrocities, such as the massacre of Bucha,” Pope Francis said. “Stop this war! Let the weapons fall silent. Stop sowing death and destruction.”