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West prepares fresh sanctions on Russia in response to atrocities in Ukraine

People walk by an apartment building destroyed during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Borodyanka, Ukraine (Vadim Ghirda/AP)
People walk by an apartment building destroyed during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Borodyanka, Ukraine (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

The UK, US and European Union are set to impose further sanctions on Russia in response to the atrocities committed during the invasion of Ukraine.

A further package of economic measures targeting Vladimir Putin’s allies and the industries funding the war will be announced on Wednesday, while Nato foreign ministers will also consider how to support Ukraine’s resistance to Moscow’s forces.

The White House has indicated the US sanctions package will target officials and their family members – with reports suggesting Mr Putin’s daughters Maria Vorontsova, 36, and Katerina Tikhonova, 35 will be hit by American and EU measures – as well as Russian banks and state-owned enterprises.

The European Commission has proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia and a full transaction ban on four key Russian banks as part of its fifth sanctions package.

In London, a Foreign Office source said announcements would also be coming from the UK side.

On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said economic actions so far were having a “crippling impact” and “pushing the Russian economy back into the Soviet era”.

She said sanctions had frozen more than 350 billion US dollars (£266 billion) of “Putin’s war chest”, rendering unavailable over 60% of the regime’s 604 billion US dollars (£459 billion) of foreign currency reserves.

She will join Nato counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s full meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers.

The meeting comes as British defence intelligence warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, which has been besieged and bombarded by Russian forces.

“The humanitarian situation in the city is worsening,” the Ministry of Defence said.

“Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat or water.

“Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Irish Parliament that Russia is using hunger as a weapon of war.

“For them hunger is a weapon against us, ordinary people as an instrument of domination,” he said.

“Ukraine is one of the leading food-supplying country in the world with exports.

“This is not just about the deficit and the threat of hunger.

“There will be a shortage of food and the prices will go up, and this is reality for the millions of people who are hungry, and it will be more difficult for them to feed their families.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said an image of a Ukrainian mother who scrawled contact details on her two-year-old daughter’s back in case she and the rest of the family are killed in the conflict “strengthens the resolve for all of us”.

He told Sky news: “What we are seeing unfolding now in Ukraine is absolutely appalling.

“These atrocities we are now sadly seeing almost daily on our TV screens, and the image you just talked of, when I first saw that image… it could have been my daughter, it could be anyone’s daughter, their son, just to think that’s what parents are having to do in Ukraine right now because (of) the choice that Vladimir Putin has made.”

Boris Johnson issued a direct appeal to the Russian people to reject Mr Putin’s war in Ukraine, which he called a “stain” on their country’s honour.

In a video message posted online, the Prime Minister urged Russians to download VPNs to enable them to circumvent the Kremlin’s media controls and see for themselves the atrocities being committed in their name.

Speaking in Russian, Mr Johnson told people in Mr Putin’s country: “Your president stands accused of committing war crimes. But I cannot believe he’s acting in your name.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

His intervention came after Mr Zelensky used a dramatic address to the United Nations Security Council to accuse the Russians of the “most terrible war crimes” since the Second World War.

The Ukrainian leader called for the creation of a special tribunal along the lines of the Nuremberg tribunals, used to try leading Nazis, to bring those responsible to justice.

The Kremlin responded by claiming images of civilians said to have been killed by Russian soldiers in the town of Bucha were “fake news” having been staged by the Ukrainians themselves.

However, the UK Ministry of Defence said analysis of satellite imagery from March 21 – when the town was still occupied by the Russians – showed at least eight bodies lying in a street.

In his message, Mr Johnson said the “atrocities” committed by Russian forces – including the rape and massacre of innocent civilians – are so shocking that Mr Putin had deliberately sought to hide the truth from his people.

“Your president knows that if you could see what was happening, you would not support his war,” he said.

“He knows that these crimes betray the trust of every Russian mother who proudly waves goodbye to her son as he heads off to join the military.

“And he knows they are a stain on the honour of Russia itself. A stain that will only grow larger and more indelible every day this war continues.”

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