Russian actions close to ‘genocide’, Boris Johnson says as UK imposes new sanctions

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ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith has the latest on what seem to be civilian massacres in Ukraine

Boris Johnson has said the actions of Russian forces in Ukraine appeared close to “genocide” as Britain and other Western allies unveiled sweeping new sanctions against the regime in Moscow.

As more evidence emerges of what appear to be civilian massacres by Russian troops on the outskirts of Kyiv, Mr Johnson said: “When you look at what’s happening in Bucha, the revelations that we are seeing from what Putin has done in Ukraine, which doesn’t look far short of genocide to me, it is no wonder people are responding in the way that they are.”On Wednesday, the UK imposed sanctions on Russia’s largest bank and committed to ending all imports of coal and oil from the country by the end of 2022.

Boris Johnson says President Putin's actions seem close to genocide

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK's package was “some of our toughest sanctions yet”.

As well as asset freezes being imposed on Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and the Credit Bank of Moscow, Britain also committed to end all imports of Russian coal and oil by the end of the year, with gas to follow as soon as possible.

Additionally, all new outward investment to Russia has been banned. A ban on imports of Russian iron and steel products will follow, while a further eight oligarchs have been added to the sanctions list.

This latest tranche of measures comes as the US and European Union also acted against Russia.

Soldiers walk amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv. Credit: Rodrigo Abd/AP

The United States on Wednesday announced sanctions targeting President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters and, like the UK, said it was toughening penalties against Russian banks

President Joe Biden called the latest round of sanctions “devastating”. “I made clear that Russia would pay a severe and immediate price for its atrocities in Bucha,” Mr Biden said in a tweet.

The EU’s executive branch proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia, worth an estimated four billion euros per year. It would be the first time the 27-nation bloc has sanctioned the country’s lucrative energy industry over the war.

On Wednesday, China, which has so far refused to criticise Moscow over the war, called for a probe into the killings, saying images of civilian deaths are “deeply disturbing” but that no blame should be apportioned until all facts are known.

Demands for increased sanctions intensified this week after grim images of bodies strewn across gardens and streets, and horrific accounts of civilian killings, torture and mass destruction emerged, as Russian troops withdrew from the outskirts of Kyiv, in towns and cities such as Bucha.

A journalist stands next to a mass grave in Bucha Credit: AP

The Kremlin claims the images, which have stirred global revulsion, are fake and suggested the scenes were staged by the Ukrainians.

It insists Russian troops have committed no war crimes, while Moscow's UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said “not a single local person" suffered from violence while Bucha was under Russian control.

However, Ukraine's prosecutor said it is investigating 4,684 registered alleged Russian war crimes.

It calculates that as of Wednesday morning, 167 children have been killed so far as result of Russia's invasion, while more than 466 have been injured.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is demanding war crimes trials for Russian troops and leaders responsible for any atrocities during the month-long offensive on Kyiv.

On Tuesday, he urged the United Nations to convict Putin of war crimes as he accused Russian troops of raping Ukrainian mothers in front of their children, killing "entire families" and burning their bodies, and crushing civilians with tanks in the "recently liberated" city of Bucha.

According to Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, Iryna Venediktova, the bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns, including Bucha, that were recently retaken from Russian forces.

A woman stands amid the destruction caused by the war in Bucha Credit: AP

Many had bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture.

She told Ukrainian TV that a "similar humanitarian situation" to Bucha exists in other parts of the country where Russian forces recently left, such as the areas around the northern cities of Sumy and Chernihiv.

Ms Venediktova also feared the situation in Borodyanka, northwest of the capital, may be even worse.

After weeks of Russian occupation, the town has been left devastated with several apartment blocks destroyed in the fighting. The number of casualties is not yet known as officials are still working to clear away rubble and debris.

In Vorzel, a village also on the outskirts of Kyiv, ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers detailed the horrors experienced by residents.

"All this happening in streets where you could be shot for simply going to search for food. Some bodies are still to be recovered," reports Rivers.

"Recovery of any sense of normality and peace will take much longer."

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Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the besieged port city of Mariupol is "worsening" with Russian forces preventing humanitarian access, as they continue to launch airstrikes, according to the UK's Ministry of Defence.

It said most of the remaining 160,000 residents are without water, medicine, electricity, light or heat and unable to communicate with the outside world.

The International Committee of the Red Cross's efforts to get humanitarian convoys into Mariupol have failed.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian forces stopped buses accompanied by Red Cross workers from traveling to Mariupol, which had a pre-war population of over 400,000.

She said Russian troops allowed 1,496 civilians to leave the Sea of Azov port on Tuesday, while Mariupol's mayor said 5,000 in the city have died since the start of the war.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the aid group Doctors without Borders said its staff witnessed an attack Monday on a cancer hospital in a residential district of the southern city of Mykolaiv.

The group said said it had no overall death toll, but its team reports one dead body.