Russia-Ukraine updates: Kremlin reacts to images of dead bodies in Bucha

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(NEW YORK) — Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are putting up “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The attack began Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation.” Heavy shelling and missile attacks, many on civilian buildings, continue in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, as well as other major cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Apr 04, 7:28 pm
‘Today has been a really difficult day, emotional,’ Zelenskyy says of visit to Bucha

More than 300 people have been killed and tortured in Bucha, with the death toll expected to be much higher once the entire city has been checked, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address Monday following his visit to the ravaged city.

Even more are feared dead in Borodyanka and other liberated cities, Zelenskyy said, vowing to punish those responsible.

“We are already doing everything possible to identify all the Russian military involved in these crimes as soon as possible. Everything to punish them,” Zelenskyy said. “This will be a joint work of our state with the European Union and international institutions, in particular with the International Criminal Court.”

Zelenskyy also said that Russia is using old tactics to distort the truth about what happened in Bucha.

“They will not succeed,” Zelensky said. “They will not be able to deceive the whole world.”

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Apr 04, 5:34 pm
Russian ambassador to the UN claims Ukraine ‘staged’ Bucha atrocities

Russia is not responsible for the atrocities that Ukraine claims occurred in Bucha, the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations claimed in a press conference on Monday.

Ambassador Vasily Alekseevich Nebenzya claimed that experts who analyzed the video showing dead bodies on the street in Bucha and concluded the scene was staged, alleging that the people lying on the street showed signs of life and that it was clear the first stages of decomposition, which would have occurred in the days after Russian military forces had withdrawn, have not taken place.

To back his claims, Nebenzya played a video, purportedly filmed on Saturday after Russian forces left Bucha, and pointed out that there were no dead bodies on the streets.

Nebenzya also alleged that the Ukrainian military interviewed people in different locations throughout Bucha and there was no mention of a civilian massacre.

“Now the nationalists have a pretext to commit a real massacre” Nebenzya said, claiming Ukraine would use Bucha as a false flag operation. “We want the world to stay alert.”

Nebenzya added that the “truth of what happened in Bucha will reveal itself” and that he will present “even more” evidence to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Apr 04, 5:22 pm
US pushes to expel Russian diplomats from UN Human Rights Council

The U.S., in coordination with Ukraine and European allies, is pushing to expel Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced Monday.

The U.N. Human Rights Council is a body within the U.N. system where countries are elected for three-year terms. To suspend one of the body’s 47 elected members requires a two-thirds majority in the U.N.’s main body — the U.N. General Assembly.

During a press conference in Romania, Thomas-Greenfield told reporters the U.S. wants to have a vote this week.

“We cannot let a member state that is subverting every principle we hold dear to continue to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council,” she said. “Russia should not have a position of authority in that body, nor should we allow Russia to use their role on the Council as a tool of propaganda to suggest they have a legitimate concern about human rights.”

Thomas-Greenfield called Moscow’s participation a “farce” and added it “hurts the credibility of the Council and the U.N. writ large — and it is simply wrong.”

It is unclear whether the U.S. and its allies and partners have the votes to take this rare step, but two previous U.N. General Assembly votes condemning Russia’s invasion have yielded 141 and 140 votes — crossing the two-thirds threshold of the U.N.’s 193 member states.

Whether they can secure that same level of support for an expulsion, which some countries may see as an escalation, is an open question.

This would not be the first time the U.N. has suspended a country. In March 2011, it to suspend Libya from the Council because of Muammar Gaddafi’s violence against protesters.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price indicated they believe they have the votes, saying the U.S. believes the General Assembly will “stand up in clear contravention of what Russia is doing.”

“It’s something that we’ll continue to discuss,” Price said. “But, as we’ve heard, there’s been widespread, strong condemnation of this conduct and this would be the next natural step.”

The U.N. Security Council will meet Tuesday to discuss Ukraine, with the atrocities reported out of Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs on the agenda.

“We will be prepared to confront them with the actual truth,” Thomas-Greenfield said Monday when asked about that meeting. “They of course will, as they always do, try to distract us with their lies, and we’re prepared for that.”

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

Apr 04, 4:52 pm
US supports team of independent war crimes investigators

The United States is supporting a multinational team of independent war crimes investigators, including American experts, that are working with Ukraine’s prosecutor-general on a probe of alleged Russian war crimes, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday.

The team is working in Eastern Europe, but not in Ukraine itself, Price said. He said the team is collecting, preserving and analyzing evidence with a view toward prosecutions and other forms of holding Russia accountable, Price said.

The United States is also supporting the effort through funding for non-government organizations that are part of the effort, Price said. He said he could not provide further details, including how many Americans are involved or how much funding is being allocated.

At the start of his briefing on Monday, Price noted the horrific reports from Bucha, Ukraine, and other towns outside of the capital of Kyiv, describing reports of “civilians, many with their hands tied, apparently executed in the streets, others in mass graves.”

“We are seeing credible reports of torture, rape and civilians executed alongside their families,” Price said. “There are reports and images of a nightmare litany of atrocities, including reports of land mines and booby traps left behind by Putin’s forces to injure even more civilians and slow the stabilization and recovery of devastated communities after they failed in their objective and withdrew.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will discuss the reported atrocities with his NATO foreign minister counterparts during the Western military alliance’s spring meeting this week, Price said.

President Joe Biden said earlier Monday that he is calling for more sanctions to be imposed on Russia in light of the reports from Bucha.

“We’re continuously tightening sanctions and preparing for additional sanctions, jointly with our allies and partners,” Price said.

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

Apr 04, 4:42 pm
More than 1,500 residents evacuated from Mariupol

More than 1,500 residents fled Mariupol in private vehicles on, according to Ukrainian officials.

The mayor of Mariupol confirmed on Monday that a convoy of seven buses escorted by the International Committee of the Red Cross was could not make it into his besieged city to evacuate residents. The mayor said residents were still able to flee the city using a single humanitarian corridor meant for private cars.

The mayor also said humanitarian cargo also failed to make it to Mariupol.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said a total of 3,376 civilians evacuated the country on Monday, including 2,405 citizens of Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine who made it out via private transport.

Apr 04, 3:12 pm
France to expel Russian diplomats, cites security risk

France’s foreign ministry announced that it decided Monday evening to expel “many” Russian diplomats.

France’s decision came hours after the German foreign minister said her country is moving to expel a “significant” number of Russian diplomats following reports that Russian troops killed more than 400 civilians in the Ukraine city of Bucha.

A spokesperson for the French foreign ministry said the action by France is “part of a European approach” and expects other European Union nations to make similar announcements. The spokesperson did not disclose how many Russian diplomats will be expelled.

“France decided this evening to expel many Russian personnel with diplomatic status assigned to France whose activities are contrary to our security interests,” the spokesperson said. “Our first responsibility is always to ensure the safety of French people and Europeans.”

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Apr 04, 2:23 pm
Nearly 70% of Russian troops near Kyiv have withdrawn: US official

About two-thirds of the Russian forces that were arrayed against the capital of Ukraine have withdrawn toward Belarus, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

The number of Russian forces being pulled back from Kyiv is up from an estimated 20% late last week, the official said.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Alexander Fomin told reporters last week that Russia’s military activity was being dramatically curtailed near Kyiv and in Chernihiv in northern Ukraine in an attempt to increase “mutual trust and create conditions required” for further peace talks with Ukrainian negotiators.

The United States has been skeptical of Russia’s promise to scale back its military activity near Kyiv.

Before repositioning its forces, Russia had close to 20 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) bearing down on Kyiv from the north and northwest, with each group comprised of 700 to 900 troops. Roughly 13 of those BTGs are now either in Belarus or on their way there.

The Pentagon believes the withdrawing forces will be resupplied and possibly reinforced in the north before heading back into Ukraine to fight elsewhere, the official said.

“Our best assessment –- and it is only an assessment -– is that they will be applied in the eastern part of the country in the Donbas region,” the official said of the two separatist areas, Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized as independent self-proclaimed people’s republics prior to the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

The United States has also seen some Russian troops leave the city of Sumy in northeast Ukraine and head north to the Russian border, according to the official.

Despite these movements, the official said the “vast majority” of the more than 125 BTGs that Russia committed to the invasion remain inside Ukraine.

-ABC News’ Matt Seyler

Apr 04, 1:07 pm
Germany to expel a ‘significant’ number of Russian diplomats

Germany’s foreign minister said Monday that her country is moving to expel a “significant” number of Russian diplomats following reports that Russian troops killed more than 400 civilians in the Ukraine city of Bucha.

“The pictures from Bucha bear witness to the unbelievable brutality of the Russian leadership and of those who follow its propaganda, to a will to annihilate that transcends all borders. We have to fear similar pictures from many other places that Russian troops have occupied in Ukraine,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement.

Baerbock added that Germany is opposed to the inhumanity alleged in Bucha and must stand for freedom and be prepared to defend it. Baerbock said Germany, therefore, has decided to declare a significant number of the Russian diplomats persona non grata.

She said the Russian ambassador to Germany was informed of the decision on Monday afternoon.

Germany will also take further action against Russia together with allies, tightening existing sanctions, increasing support for Ukraine’s armed forces and strengthening the NATO eastern flank.

The statement and corresponding tweet from Baerbock does not say how many diplomats will be expelled.

Apr 04, 11:56 am
ICRC team blocked from entering Mariupol again, ‘being held’ in nearby town

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday that its staff has been blocked again from entering Mariupol after failing to reach the besieged Ukrainian port city for several days.

An ICRC team tasked with escorting evacuation buses to and from Mariupol was stopped on Monday while carrying out humanitarian efforts to help lead a safe passage corridor for civilians and is now “being held in the town of Manhush,” about 12 miles west of Mariupol, according to an ICRC spokesperson.

“The ICRC has been in direct contact with our colleagues and is speaking with the parties on all sides to bring clarity to the situation and allow them to resume their humanitarian work,” the spokesperson told ABC News in a statement.

Apr 04, 11:37 am
Biden to call for more sanctions against Russia over Bucha ‘war crimes’

President Joe Biden said on Monday that he is seeking more sanctions against Russia after horrific images surfaced of dead civilians lying in the bombed-out streets of Bucha, Ukraine.

Upon his return to Washington from Ft. McNair, Biden said he will call for more sanctions but stopped short of accusing Russia of committing genocide in Ukraine.

“I’m seeking more sanctions, yes,” Biden said, declining to offer specifics when pressed.

Biden described the situation in Bucha as “outrageous” and called Russian President Vladimir Putin “brutal.”

“You may remember I got criticized for calling Putin a war criminal. Well, the truth of the matter — you saw what happened in Bucha,” Biden said. “This warrants he is a war criminal. But we have to gather the information. We have to continue to provide Ukraine with weapons they need to continue the fight. And we have to gather all the details. So this could be an actual — have a war-crime trial. This guy is brutal. And what’s happening with Bucha is outrageous. And everyone sees it.”

Ukrainian officials accused Russian troops of committing genocide in Bucha, which was retaken by Ukrainian forces in recent days. Ukrainian leaders said 410 civilians were killed in the fighting in Bucha and that many were found with their hands bound and shot at close range.

Asked if he thought Russia was committing genocide, Biden replied, “No, I think it is a war crime.”

Apr 04, 10:22 am
Russia may launch major offensive in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Monday it is monitoring large movements of Russian troops and reinforcements in eastern Ukraine.

The General Staff said it expects Russian forces to launch a possibly major offensive in the Donbas region within the next 24 hours, particularly against the city of Severodonetsk, which is the administrative center of the government-controlled areas of the Luhansk Oblast.

Meanwhile, Donetsk Oblast Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko has urged civilians to evacuate now, even from areas not close to the front lines.

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his recognition of two breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region that share a border with Russia — the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics. Russia-backed separatist forces have controlled these parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhanks oblasts since 2014.

Apr 04, 10:04 am
Zelenskyy visits bombed city of Bucha

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited on Monday the decimated city of Bucha, where Ukrainian officials have accused Russian troops of committing war crimes against civilians.

Zelenskyy toured the Kyiv suburb that was retaken by Ukrainian forces in recent days. Zelenskyy went to a road in the city littered with destroyed Russian equipment and he spoke to local residents.

Zelenskyy repeated accusations that Russia committed war crimes and genocide after Ukrainian officials said 410 people believed to have been civilians were found dead, many with their hands bound behind their backs and shot at close range.

Russian officials have denied the accusation and have requested the U.N. Security Council investigate.

Apr 04, 9:34 am
Ukraine accuses Russian brigade of war crimes, releases names of troops

Ukraine has accused a brigade of the Russian Ground Forces of committing war crimes in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv.

The Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense published online Monday what it said was a list with the names of hundreds of personnel of Russia’s 64th Motor Rifle Brigade whom they believe were directly responsible for atrocities in Bucha. Ukrainian officials have said there is evidence of other Russian units being involved.

Ukrainian authorities announced Sunday that 410 civilians were found dead in recently recaptured towns near the capital as part of an investigation into possible war crimes by Russian forces. Images emerged showing bodies, some of which showed signs of torture, in civilian clothes strewn in streets and in mass graves across Bucha, northwest of Kyiv. ABC News journalists on the ground saw some of the dead, including a family that locals said were executed with their hands bound.

Russia has denied the claims.

-ABC News’ Natalia Kushnir and Fidel Pavlenko

Apr 04, 9:23 am
Russian oligarch’s yacht seized in Spain

A yacht that belongs to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg was seized Monday in Marina Real in the Spanish port of Palma de Mallorca, two U.S. law enforcement sources told ABC News.

The yacht was seized by Spanish authorities and KleptoCapture, the U.S. Department of Justice task force charged with finding assets of oligarchs trying to evade sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Vekselberg was among the oligarchs sanctioned previously by the United States in 2018 after Russia invaded Crimea.

The task force is trying to find yachts, airplanes and other moveable properties before the oligarchs can move them to jurisdictions where it might be more difficult for U.S. authorities to investigate.

-ABC News’ Luke Barr and Aaron Katersky

Apr 04, 8:20 am
Russia accuses Ukraine of ‘fake attack’ in Bucha

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused Ukrainian forces of staging an attack in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, where images have emerged showing bodies in civilian clothes lying in the streets and in mass graves.

“The other day, another fake attack was launched in the city of Bucha, Kyiv region, after Russian military personnel left from there in accordance with the plans and agreements reached,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on Monday. “A few days later, a staging was arranged there, which was dispersed through all channels and social networks by Ukrainian representatives and their Western patrons.”

According to Lavrov, Russian forces vacated the area on March 30.

“On March 31, the mayor [of Bucha] solemnly said that everything was fine there,” he added. “And two days later, we saw how the same production was organized on the streets, which they are now trying to use for anti-Russian purposes.”

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova announced Sunday that 410 civilians were found dead in recently recaptured towns near the capital as part of an investigation into possible war crimes by Russian forces. Some photos taken Sunday in Bucha show unarmed individuals who appear to have been executed with their hands or legs bound. A number of world leaders have accused Russia of committing the atrocities.

Apr 04, 7:41 am
Kremlin reacts to images of dead bodies in Bucha

Russia responded on Monday to accusations that its troops have deliberately killed civilians in Ukraine, after images emerged showing bodies in civilian clothes scattered in areas on the outskirts of the capital that were recently recaptured from Russian forces.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova said Sunday that 410 civilians were found dead in towns near Kyiv.

During a daily press briefing on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia “categorically dismiss[es] any accusations” of its role in civilian killings and that Moscow does not trust the evidence in Bucha.

“This information should be seriously doubted,” Peskov told reporters. “From what we have seen, the video materials cannot be trusted to a large extent, as our specialists from the Defense Ministry have detected signs of video forgery and other kinds of fakes.”

The Kremlin demands that “international leaders do not jump to conclusions, do not make hasty unsupported accusations but at least seek information from various sources and at least listen to our arguments,” Peskov said.

“The facts, the chronology of events also do not speak in favor of the credibility of these claims,” he added.

Russia will reiterate its calls to discuss the matter at the United Nations Security Council on Monday, according to Peskov.

“We believe that the issue should be discussed at the highest level, so we have proposed that it be discussed at the Security Council. We are aware that the initiative has been blocked,” he said. “Our diplomats will continue active efforts towards putting this item on the Security Council’s agenda. This issue is too serious.”

“The initiative aimed to put the item on the Security Council agenda demonstrates that Russia wants and actually demands its discussion at the international level,” he added.

Apr 04, 7:11 am
Russia seeks UN Security Council meeting on Bucha for Monday

Russia said it will repeat its request for the United Nations Security Council to meet on Monday over what Moscow described as “criminal provocations by Ukrainian soldiers and radicals” in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.

The United Kingdom’s mission to the U.N., which assumed the presidency of the 15-member Security Council for April, has said the group will hold a scheduled discussion on Ukraine on Tuesday, rather than meet on Monday as requested by Russia.

“Yesterday, in the worst English tradition, the British presidency of the U.N. Security Council did not give consent to holding a meeting of the Security Council on the situation in Bucha,” Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement via Telegram on Monday. “Russia today will again demand the convening of the U.N. Security Council in connection with the criminal provocations of the Ukrainian military and radicals in this city.”

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova announced Sunday that 410 civilians were found dead in recently recaptured towns near the capital as part of an investigation into possible war crimes by Russian forces. Images emerged showing bodies in civilian clothes strewn in the streets of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv.

Russia’s deputy representative to the U.N. Security Council, Dmitry Polyansky, said via Twitter on Sunday that Moscow had requested a meeting to be held on Monday “in connection with the monstrous provocation of Ukrainian radicals in Bucha.”

Apr 04, 6:01 am
Russian troops, Wagner mercenaries move into Ukraine’s Donbas region

Russian forces are continuing to consolidate and reorganize as they refocus their offensive into the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update Monday.

“Russian troops, including mercenaries from the Russian state-linked Wagner private military company, are being moved into the area,” the ministry added.

Wagner is the best-known of an array of Russian mercenary groups and has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian company has deployed fighters to countries in the Middle East and Africa. U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson John Kirby told reporters last month that Wagner “has an interest in increasing their footprint in Ukraine.”

Apr 03, 10:37 pm
Zelenskyy speaks at Grammys: ‘Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a brief speech at the on Sunday night.

Zelenskyy, in a video message, said war is the opposite of music, but hopes soon the silence of death will be filled with the sound of music.

“The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence. Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos,” Zelenskyy told the audience. “They sing to the wounded. In hospitals. Even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway.”

Apr 03, 8:14 pm
7 dead, 34 wounded in Kharkiv shelling, 70% of Chernihiv destroyed

At least seven civilians are dead and 34 are wounded following shelling in Kharkiv, the region’s prosecutor’s office announced Sunday.

The shelling occurred Sunday evening in the city’s Slobidskyi district, according to the Kharkiv regional military administration Oleg Sinehubov, who added that children are among the victims.

Meanwhile, in Chernihiv, around 70% of the city has been destroyed, according to Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko, who was speaking on Ukrainian TV.

He added that businesses are not operating. Ukrainian soldiers have been able to liberate several villages in the Chernihiv region in the past couple of days.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Apr 03, 4:20 pm
‘Concentrated evil has come,’ Zelenskyy addresses civilian deaths in Bucha

Following graphic images of casualties coming out of Bucha, Ukraine, after Russian military withdrawal, Ukrainian President President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has strong words about he called, “concentrated evil, in his daily address Sunday. Here are excerpts from that address:

“Hundreds of people were killed. Tortured, executed civilians. Corpses on the streets. Mined area. Even the bodies of the dead were mined!”

“Concentrated evil has come to our land. Murderers. Torturers. Rapists. Looters. Who call themselves the army. And who deserve only death after what they did.”

“I want every mother of every Russian soldier to see the bodies of the killed people in Bucha, in Irpin, in Hostomel. What did they do? Why were they killed? What did the man who was riding his bicycle down the street do? Why were ordinary civilians in an ordinary peaceful city tortured to death? Why were women strangled after their earrings were ripped out of their ears? How could women be raped and killed in front of children? How could their corpses be desecrated even after death? Why did they crush the bodies of people with tanks? What did the Ukrainian city of Bucha do to your Russia? How did all this become possible?”

“All partners of Ukraine will be informed in detail about what happened in the temporarily occupied territory of our state. War crimes in Bucha and other cities during the Russian occupation will also be considered by the UN Security Council on Tuesday.”

Zelenslyy also invited former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Ukraine to witness the carnage.

“We do not blame the West. We do not blame anyone but the specific Russian military who did this against our people,” Zelenskyy, who has pleaded with the U.S. and NATO allies to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a measure so far, that President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have refused to do, said.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

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