(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with troops crossing the border from Belarus and Russia. Moscow’s forces have since been met with “stiff resistance” from Ukrainians, according to U.S. officials.
Russian forces retreated last week from the Kyiv suburbs, leaving behind a trail of destruction. After graphic images emerged of civilians lying dead in the streets of Bucha, U.S. and European officials accused Russian troops of committing war crimes.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern.
Apr 06, 2:15 pm
Biden addresses Bucha in-depth for 1st time, calling it ‘major war crimes’
President Joe Biden on Wednesday spoke in-depth for the first time about the horrific images of civilian deaths in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.
“I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures from Bucha and just outside of Kyiv, bodies left in streets as Russian troops withdrew. Some shot … with their hands tied behind their backs. Civilians executed in cold blood,” Biden said at the North America’s Building Trade Union legislative conference in Washington, D.C.
“Bodies dumped into mass graves… There is nothing less happening than major war crimes,” he said.
Biden called on responsible nations to “come together to hold these perpetrators accountable.”
“The steps we’re already taken are predicted to shrink Russia’s gross domestic product by double-digits this year alone. Just in one year, our sanctions are likely to wipe out the last 15 years of Russia’s economic gains and because we’ve cut Russia off from important technologies like semiconductors and encryption security and critical components of quantum technology that they need to compete in the 21st century. We’re going to stifle Russia’s ability in its economy to grow for years to come,” Biden said.
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle
Apr 06, 1:43 pm
All Russian troops have left Kyiv and Chernihiv: US official
All Russian troops have left the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Chernihiv, withdrawing north toward the borders of Belarus and Russia to consolidate before likely redeploying to the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Wednesday.
But even with the Russians gone, the territory remains treacherous.
“There are some indications that they left behind mines and things like that, so the Ukrainians are being somewhat careful in some areas north of Kyiv as they begin to clear the ground and clear the territory and re-occupy it,” the official said.
While the U.S. hasn’t yet seen these troops redeploy elsewhere in Ukraine, it’ll likely happen soon, according to the official. Ukrainian forces are preparing for a major fight in Donbas, the official said.
The official also said the Pentagon is “monitoring” an apparent nitric acid explosion in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, which Russia blamed on Ukraine.
“We’ve seen the Russians claim that this was a Ukrainian attack on this. We do not believe that is true,” the official said. “We do believe that the Russians are responsible, but exactly what they used when they did it, why they did it, what the damage is, we just don’t have that level of detail,” the official said.
The official also noted that a small number of Ukrainians currently in the U.S. for “professional military education” were pulled aside for a couple days of training on Switchblade drones, which the U.S. is sending overseas as part of its military aid, according to the official.
“Although it’s not a very difficult system to operate, we took advantage of having them in the country to give them some rudimentary training on that,” the official said.
-ABC News’ Matt Seyler
Apr 06, 1:03 pm
Yellen says goal of sanctions is to ‘impose maximum pain on Russia’ while shielding allies from economic harm
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testified before the House Committee on Financial Services that the Treasury would continue to take steps to prevent Russia from participating in the international financial system.
“Russia’s actions, including the atrocities committed against innocent Ukrainians in Bucha, are reprehensible, represent an unacceptable affront the rules based global order and will have enormous economic repercussions in Ukraine and beyond,” she said.
Yellen said the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have assisted Ukraine, allowing the country “fiscal space to pay salaries for civilians, soldiers, doctors and nurses.”
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., asked Yellen why the U.S. continues to provide licenses that permit certain bank transactions related to Russian energy despite a ban on Russian oil imports. Yellen said that although the sanctions aim to cripple Russia’s economy, some of the U.S.’s European allies are still dependent on Russian gas.
“Our goal from the outset has been to impose maximum pain on Russia while, to the best of our ability, shielding the United States and our partners of undue economic harm,” she said. “Unfortunately, many of our European partners remain heavily dependent on Russian natural gas as well as oil.”
-ABC News’ Armando Tonatiuh Torres-García
Apr 06, 12:05 pm
Human Rights Watch racing to document war crimes
Hugh Williamson, director of the Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division, wrote in an OpEd in the Telegraph that the HRW is racing to document war crimes in Ukraine.
Williamson said one apparent war crime was when seven Ukrainian civilians were allegedly executed by Russian soldiers.
Regarding the images of civilian bodies in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, Williamson said they’re concerned many of the deaths may be the result of war crimes, but “it’s too early to say for certain now, and legal proceedings are still at a nascent stage.”
This comes as a spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs doubled down on Russian claims that civilian killings in Bucha were staged.
“On April 3, the world witnessed another crime by the Ukrainian authorities, this time in the town of Bucha, where a criminal false flag operation [showing] the alleged killing of civilians by Russian troops had been staged,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Wednesday according to state-run TASS. Zakharova claimed that when Bucha was controlled by the Russian Armed Forces, not a single local resident was affected by acts of violence.
-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou
Apr 06, 11:25 am
New US sanctions target Putin’s children, largest Russian bank
New U.S. sanctions are targeting “the key architects of the war” and their family members, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adult children, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s wife and daughter and members of Russia’s security council, a senior administration official told reporters.
“We believe that many of Putin’s assets are hidden with family members and that’s why we’re targeting them,” the official said.
The new sanctions are also the most severe sanctions yet on Russia’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank, and its largest financial institution, Sherbank, the official said.
This will “generate a financial shock” to Russia’s economy,” the official said. “[Sherbank] holds nearly one-third of Russia’s total banking sector assets. That’s over $500 billion. That’s roughly twice the size of the second largest Russian bank, which we previously fully blocked. And in total, we’ve now fully blocked more than two thirds of the Russian banking sector, which before the invasion held about $1.4 trillion in assets.”
The official warned that “Russia will very likely lose its status as a major economy.”
The official noted how these sanctions will hurt everyday Russians.
“It means their debit cards may not work. They may only have the option to buy knockoff phones and knockoff clothes. The shelves at stores may be empty. The reality is the country’s descending into economic and financial and technological isolation. And at this rate, it will go back to Soviet style living standards from the 1980s,” the official said.
Apr 06, 11:14 am
DOJ charges Russian oligarch with sanctions violations, announces disruption of global botnet
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it has charged Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev with sanctions violations, alleging Malofeyev was one of the main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea and for providing material support for the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.
These actions are part of the KleptoCapture Task force, which is a Justice Department task force established last month aimed at seizing Russian oligarch assets from around the country.
“After being sanctioned by the United States, Malofeyev attempted to evade the sanctions by using co-conspirators to surreptitiously acquire and run media outlets across Europe,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters. “We are also announcing the seizure of millions of dollars from an account at a U.S. financial institution, which the indictment alleges constitutes proceeds traceable to Malofeyev’s sanctions violations.”
One of Malofeyev’s co-conspirators, according to the DOJ, is former U.S. TV producer Jack Hanick, who was arrested last month in the United Kingdom, where he had been living for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions stemming from Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The Justice Department also on Wednesday announced the disruption of a global botnet run by the GRU, Russia’s Chief Intelligence Office. FBI Director Christopher Wray told reporters the team behind the global botnet was responsible for some of the most infectious cyberattacks in recent memory, including the cyberattacks against the Winter Olympics in 2018, attacks on Ukrainian power grid in 2015 and the attack on the country of Georgia in 2019.
The Justice Department seized a yacht that belongs to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg in Marina Real in the Spanish port of Palma de Mallorca, according to court documents unsealed Monday.
In addition to the seizure of Vekselberg’s yacht, U.S. authorities also obtained seizure warrants unsealed in Washington, D.C., Monday that target roughly $625,000 associated with sanctioned parties at nine U.S. financial institutions, the Justice Department said.
At the news conference, Garland also expressed outrage over the images of civilian bodies in Ukraine.
“We have seen the dead bodies of civilians, some with bound hands, scattered in the streets. We have seen the mass graves. We have seen the bombed hospital, theater, and residential apartment buildings. The world sees what is happening in Ukraine. The Justice Department sees what is happening in Ukraine,” Garland said.
Garland said the DOJ is in the “collection of evidence” stage of any war crime prosecution.
-ABC News’ Alex Mallin, Luke Barr
Apr 06, 11:12 am
School-turned-shelter attacked in Donetsk region, governor says
A school-turned-shelter in eastern Ukraine’s war-torn Donetsk region came under attack on Wednesday, according to Donetsk Oblast Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Kyrylenko released images showing several wounded people lying on the ground among debris outside the school, which is currently being used as a humanitarian aid center. First responders were seen helping the victims. Another image showed the inside of a classroom that was damaged during the attack, with the windows shattered and some desks broken.
ABC News’ Visual Verification team confirmed that the photos were taken at a school in Vugledar, a small village about 40 miles from Donetsk city.
-ABC News’ Fergal Gallagher
Apr 06, 11:00 am
UN vote scheduled for Thursday to suspend Russia from UN Human Rights Council
The U.N. General Assembly has scheduled a Thursday vote on suspending Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
A two-thirds majority is needed to suspend Russia, which would become only the second country to face this censure after Libya was suspended in 2011 for Muammar Gaddafi’s forces firing on protesters.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Tuesday that she “know[s] we’re going to get” the two-thirds majority, pointing to two previous U.N. General Assembly resolutions that passed with 141 and 140 votes each.
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
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