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European countries expel dozens more Russian diplomats after reports from Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said there is ‘no choice’ but to negotiate an end to the war with Russia, although it is difficult to do amid signs that Russian forces may committing atrocities against civilians that have sparked widespread condemnation and calls for war crimes investigations.

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Speaking in an interview with Ukrainian journalists broadcast on state television on April 5, Zelenskiy called events at Bucha “unforgivable” and that “all of us, including myself, will even perceive the possibility of negotiations as a challenge”.

“The challenge is internal, first its own human challenge. Then when you pull yourself together, and you have to do it, I think you have no other choice,” he added. .

The interview comes a day after Zelenskiy made an emotional trip to Bucha outside the capital, where Ukrainian officials said the bodies of civilians had been found, many of them shot in courtyards, streets and houses.

In an April 5 video address to the UN Security Council, Zelenskiy urged the council to expel Russia and claim full responsibility for war crimes committed in Ukraine.

Horrifying images of dead bodies left out in the open, some with their hands tied behind them, have drawn international condemnation from Russia, which has denied the claims, calling them “false”.

But satellite images taken in mid-March and released by company Maxar Technologies appear to show bodies lying in the streets of Bucha, potentially refuting Russian claims that the deaths occurred after it withdrew from the city on March 30. .

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Moscow of waging a “deliberate campaign” of atrocities in Bucha.

“What we saw at Bucha is not the random act of a rogue unit,” Blinken told reporters April 5 before leaving for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. “This is a deliberate campaign to kill, torture, rape, commit atrocities. The reports are more than credible. The evidence is there for the world to see.”

Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said the killings – which he estimated at around 300 civilians – were “revenge for the Ukrainian resistance”.

head of nato Jens Stoltenberg said the images of mass graves and streets littered with the corpses of civilians revealed an “unbearable brutality that Europe has not witnessed for many decades” and that he feared “further atrocities” are yet discovered in Ukraine.

The Russian and Ukrainian delegations are continuing intensive peace talks despite fury over the allegations.

Responding to Zelenskiy’s comments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was not ruling out the possibility of a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents, as Zelenskiy wanted. However, Peskov said such a meeting is only likely once a document has been agreed upon by both sides.

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators are expected to continue crisis resolution talks via video link on April 5.

Zelenskiy said Ukraine had offered to become an officially neutral state that would have security guarantees from other countries.

In the April 5 interview, he noted that Ukraine does not yet have a final list of countries ready to provide the security guarantees, although talks are continuing.

“Different countries are prepared to guarantee different things,” he said.

“So far, we have not received a list of countries that are 100% ready to join us. We need serious players. We need a circle of countries ready to provide the necessary weapons within 24 We need sanctions to be worked out in advance and the second we feel threatened by the Russian Federation, these states must be united and introduce whatever is necessary immediately,” he said.

Two of the European Union’s top diplomats will visit kyiv as the bloc seeks to show support for Ukraine amid Russia’s unprovoked invasion.

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said Twitter on April 5, Commission Chair Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell will make the trip sometime before the Stand Up For Ukraine event in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on April 9.

This will be the second high-level visit by EU officials to Kyiv following European Parliament President Roberta Metsola’s visit to Ukraine last week.

In response to the Bucha reports and Russia’s continued unprovoked war against Ukraine, the executive branch of the European Union on April 5 proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia. If passed, they would be the first sanctions aimed at the country’s lucrative energy industry.

Von der Leyen said the bloc – which imports about $4.5 billion worth of Russian coal a year – needed to increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin after what she described as the “heinous crimes” being perpetrated around from Kyiv.

She added that oil imports could also be targeted, although such a move was hotly debated in the 27-member bloc, with some members more dependent on Russian crude supplies than others.

Several European countries also responded to the war on April 5 by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats.

Denmark, Sweden, Italy and Spain all said they informed Moscow that diplomats at their embassies were now personae non grata. Latvia and Estonia went further, each ordering the closure of two Russian consulates in their countries.

With AP and AFP reporting