Ukraine news: UN rights chief warns of possible war crimes

What is happening in Ukraine today and how are the countries of the world reacting? Read live updates on Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

BERLIN — The UN human rights chief says international humanitarian law appears to have been “sidelined” in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Geneva-based human rights office said in a statement on Friday that “Russian armed forces indiscriminately shelled and shelled populated areas, killing civilians and destroying hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure – actions which may constitute war crimes”.

The office said its mission in Ukraine had so far verified 5,264 civilian casualties, including 2,345 dead, since the war began on February 24. He said that 92.3% of them were registered in the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet added that “the real numbers are going to be much higher as the horrors inflicted in these intense combat zones like Mariupol come to light.”

She said that “during these eight weeks, international humanitarian law has not just been ignored, but seemingly sidelined”.


PRAGUE — The Russian embassy in the Czech capital has a new address after authorities in Prague renamed a section of the street where it is located.

Friday’s official ceremony comes after the decision to change the name to “Ukrainian Heroes” was approved by the town hall at the request of the Prague 6 district where the embassy is located.

Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib unveiled the new road sign in the presence of Ukrainian Ambassador to Prague Yevhen Perebyinis and ambassadors from several European Union countries.

Hrib previously said the move honored “the incredible bravery of Ukrainian fighters”.

Neither the Russian government nor the embassy made an immediate comment on the change.

Two years ago, Prague renamed a square outside the Russian Embassy after Boris Nemtsov, in honor of the murdered Russian opposition leader. This change prompted the embassy to change its address, using the now renamed street name.


Russian authorities have opened a criminal investigation against prominent opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr for allegedly spreading “false information” about the country’s armed forces, his lawyer said on Friday.

Russia passed a law criminalizing the dissemination of false information about its military shortly after its troops arrived in Ukraine in late February, in a bid to control the narrative of the invasion.

The offense is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Human rights advocates counted 32 cases under the new law as of the end of April, targeting those critical of the invasion.

Kara-Murza was arrested earlier this month and imprisoned for 15 days for disobeying a police officer. Lawyer Vadim Prokhorov said Kara-Murza was due in court on Friday.

Kara-Murza has been hospitalized twice with symptoms of poisoning, in 2015 and 2017. He is a journalist and an associate of late Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and oligarch-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky.


MOSCOW — A Russian military official said a “second phase” of the operation in Ukraine had begun with the aim of establishing full control over the eastern industrial heartland of Donbass and southern Ukraine.

Rustam Minnekayev, acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District, told a defense industry event on Friday that the second phase began “just two days ago.” Minnekayev claims that control of eastern and southern Ukraine “will provide a land corridor to Crimea, as well as influence (over) vital objects of the Ukrainian economy.”

Russia had previously said it had full control of the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson on the Sea of ​​Azov coast, and partial control of the neighboring southern region of Zaporizhzhia.


NEW DELHI – India and Britain have urged Russia to declare an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced steps to help steer New Delhi away from its dependence on vis-à-vis Russia by expanding economic and defense ties.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told reporters that their meeting on Friday focused on the situation in Ukraine, stressing the importance of diplomacy and dialogue.

While India has condemned the killings of civilians in Ukraine, it has so far not criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin. India abstained when the United Nations General Assembly this month voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.

A statement from the British High Commission said Britain was offering next-generation defense and security collaboration. Johnson said he and Modi also discussed new cooperation on clean and renewable energy.

India receives relatively little of its oil from Russia, but has recently increased its purchases due to reduced prices. India is a major buyer of Russian arms and has recently purchased advanced Russian air defense systems.


BELGRADE, Serbia – The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Porfirije, called for “unconditional” peace in Ukraine in an Easter message.

Porfirije said Friday that “any war, anywhere and at any time produces only losers, and is a defeat of human dignity, a defeat and shame of every man as an image of God.”

Some Orthodox Christian churches, including those in Serbia and Russia, celebrate Easter this weekend. The Serbian and Russian churches share close historical ties.

Serbia remains the only country in Europe not to have adhered to the sanctions against Russia following the war in Ukraine. The Balkan nation is officially seeking entry into the European Union, but it has maintained close ties with traditional Slavic ally Russia.

Porfirije says he prays for “unconditional peace, an end to suffering and for all refugees to return home.”


STOCKHOLM — Sweden is helping Ukraine rebuild “a secure electricity supply” by sending materials to repair power grids destroyed during the war.

Swedish Energy Minister Khashayar Farmanbar said that “a secure electricity supply is necessary to maintain socially important activities in Ukraine”.

Svenska kraftnät, the authority responsible for the Swedish electricity transmission network, has received a request from Ukraine via the European network of transmission system operators to provide equipment for the repair of electricity networks.

The equipment destined for Ukraine will be taken from Sweden’s emergency stock that exists for repairing power grids and will not affect Swedish demand for emergency preparedness, the energy ministry said on Thursday. in a press release.


LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defense says Russia’s decision to end its effort to take a strongly defended steelworks in the city of Mariupol is an effort to free up troops for deployment to other parts of the world. eastern Ukraine.

In an intelligence update released Friday morning, the department said “a full Russian ground assault on the plant would likely result in significant Russian casualties, further reducing their overall combat effectiveness.”

The ministry says heavy shelling and fighting continues in the Donbass region as Russia seeks to advance on the settlements of Krasny Lyman, Buhayikva, Barvinkove, Lyman and Popsana.

The ministry also says past losses still affect the Russian military, which is now forced to send damaged equipment back to Russia for repair while trying to re-equip depleted forces.


UNITED NATIONS – Russia and Ukraine clashed at the UN on Thursday over whether Russia’s war is responsible for rising food prices and world hunger.

Together, the two countries account for nearly a third of global wheat and barley exports, and millions of people in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia depend on them for bread and affordable noodles. Ukraine is also a major supplier of corn and the largest exporter of sunflower oil.

“As long as Russia persists in its efforts to invade Ukraine, the threat of hunger will hang over many countries around the world,” Ukrainian adviser Natalia Mudrenko said Thursday at an informal meeting of the Security Council in the UN to discuss conflict and hunger.

Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Chumakov argued that sanctions, trade wars, the coronavirus pandemic and Western economic policies were rocking global food, energy and financial markets.

Chumakov said critics of Russia were trying to distract from sanctions and “the economic selfishness of developed countries during the pandemic.”


KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the United States for the new $800 million military aid package, which he said was “exactly what we expected.”

The latest military aid, announced by President Joe Biden on Thursday, includes heavy artillery, munitions and drones for the escalation of the battle in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

Zekenskyy urged Western countries to speed up arms deliveries to help Ukraine repel the Russian offensive.

“The occupiers continue to do everything possible to give themselves reason to talk about at least some sort of victory,” Zelenskyy said Thursday night in his nightly video address to the nation. “They are strengthening their forces, bringing in new tactical battalions and even trying to start a so-called ‘mobilization’ in the areas they occupy in Ukraine.”

Zelenskyy also warned Ukrainians in areas under Russian control not to provide troops with their IDs, which he said could be used ‘to tamper with a so-called referendum on our land’ to create a pro-government government. Moscow.


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Christi C. Elwood