Here are five key developments from this weekend.
Although the footage left many speechless, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy reacted to the images. “This is genocide,” Zelenskyj said on Sunday. “The annihilation of the whole nation and people. We are citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. It is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities,” he continued.
The scenes have sparked international outrage, with Western leaders calling for war crimes investigations and increasing sanctions against Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed the extensive footage was “fake” and said “not a single local resident suffered from violent actions during the Russian occupation of Bucha”. US State Department spokesman Ned Price hinted that further US action against Russia would come “very soon” when asked about Zelenskyy’s call for greater G7 sanctions in response to the recent atrocities.
HRW documents allege war crimes by Russian forces
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces against civilians in the occupied territories of Ukraine’s Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv regions include rape, summary executions and unlawful acts of violence.
The independent rights group said in a statement Sunday that it has documented allegations of war crimes that include “one count of repeated rape, two counts of summary execution, one by six men, the other by a man, and other counts of unlawful violence.” and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022.”
“Soldiers were also involved in looting civilian property, including food, clothing and firewood. Those who committed these abuses are responsible for war crimes,” she added.
CNN has not independently verified the details of these reports and has asked the Russian Defense Ministry for comment on the allegations.
“The cases we have documented amount to unspeakable, premeditated cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” Hugh Williamson, HRW director for Europe and Central Asia, said in the statement. “Rape, murder and other acts of violence against persons in the custody of Russian forces should be investigated as war crimes.”
Odessa is attacked
The southern coastal city of Odessa was attacked on Sunday, with a local official saying a Russian missile attack hit “critical infrastructure”. A tank terminal in the city was still burning as of Monday morning, according to a CNN team on the ground, with a witness telling CNN they heard six explosions at the tank terminal before dawn.
The coastal city was a place of relative calm during the Russian invasion and a haven for displaced Ukrainians from areas that have seen the worst of the fighting. But Odessa has been preparing for a Russian attack for weeks, and the city center is full of tank barricades.
“Odessa was attacked from the air. Some of the missiles were shot down by our air defense system. Fire broke out in some districts,” the Odessa City Council wrote on its official Telegram account.
Russia is stepping up its attacks in eastern Ukraine
In the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance, US intelligence suggests Russia has revised its invasion strategy to focus on seizing control of the Donbass and other regions in eastern Ukraine, with a target date of early May.
Serhiy Haidai, head of the Lugansk regional military administration, said Monday that the Russian military had gathered a “significant accumulation of troops and military equipment” in the region, apparently preparing for an offensive push.
“Yes, I can confirm that there is a significant accumulation of troops and military equipment preparing for the big breakthrough (in the Luhansk region),” he said on national television.
“There was an attempt at a breakthrough in Rubizhne tonight, our defenders repelled an attack. We’re holding out, but we see there’s a large gathering of troops.”
Leaders in the Russian-backed separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk earlier announced “full mobilization” in areas they control.
Haidai said mobilization was underway, but added that the new recruits were inexperienced and “would be used as cannon fodder.”
The Russian military said it was withdrawing its forces from around Kyiv and the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv to focus efforts on the Donbass region.
Two pro-Russian European leaders face re-election
Orban’s Fidesz party has a clear lead with 71 percent of the votes counted, the national electoral committee announced on Sunday evening.
The election campaign was dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which put Orban’s longstanding association with Russian President Vladimir Putin to the test. In his victory speech, Orban Zelenskyy named one of the “opponents” he had to overcome in the election campaign. Hungary is heavily dependent on Russian energy, and Orban has dodged opportunities to condemn Putin’s attack on his neighboring state, complicating European Union (EU) efforts to form a united front against him.
Meanwhile, Serbia’s incumbent President Aleksandar Vucic will win Sunday’s presidential election with 59.8% of the vote, according to forecasts by pollsters Ipsos and CeSID, Reuters reports. The extrapolation is based on a sample of the partial polling station count.
Vucic was running for a second five-year term on promises of peace and stability just as Russia was invading Ukraine. This has put Serbia under pressure from the West to choose between its traditional relationship with Moscow and aspirations to join the EU.
Acknowledging that the conflict in Ukraine affected the campaign, Vucic said Serbia has no plans to deviate from its balancing act between its EU membership bid and close ties with Russia and China, a key investor.
“We will maintain a policy that is important to the Europeans, Russians and Americans, and that is… military neutrality,” Reuters reported, using the words of Vucic.
“Serbia will try to maintain friendly and partnership relations with the Russian Federation in many areas,” he added.
Serbia is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas, and its army has ties to the Russian military. Despite supporting two UN resolutions condemning the invasion of Ukraine, Serbia refused to impose sanctions on Moscow, according to Reuters.
CNN’s Tara John, Jonny Hallam, Nathan Hodge, Yulia Kesaieva, Rob Picheta and Balint Bardi contributed coverage.
https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/04/europe/russia-ukraine-catch-up-intl/index.html What happened in the war in Ukraine over the weekend