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Germany expels Russian diplomats after Bucha

April 4, 2022

The German government has declared 40 Russian diplomats unwelcome and taken temporary control of Gazprom's German subsidiary. This comes as the world digests images of civilian deaths in a Kyiv suburb.

A satellite image shows a grave site near the Church of St Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints, in Bucha
A satellite image taken on March 31 appears to show a mass grave site with a trench near a church in Bucha, UkraineImage: Maxar Technologies via REUTERS
  • World leaders condemn civilian killings in towns near Kyiv
  • Germany announces expulsion of 40 Russian diplomats
  • EU considers urgent new sanctions following killing of civilians
  • German regulator to take temporary control of Gazprom Germania, after Gazprom said it had cut ties
  • Ukraine's Zelenskyy makes appeal for support at the Grammys
  • Russia requests a meeting of the UN Security Council

This live updates article has been closed. For the latest on Russia's war on Ukraine, please click here. 

Kyiv mayor tells residents not to return yet

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitscho has urged residents who fled the city not to return yet.

Klitschko said that residents should not return for "at least another week."

"There is a round-the-clock curfew in several districts of Kyiv region," Klitschko said, adding that fighting continued in cities near the capital.

"A large number of explosive devices" were also found near Kyiv, according to Klitschko.

10 killed in shelling – Mykolaiv mayor

Shelling in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv has killed 10 people, mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said in a video posted to social media.

Senkevich said that the death toll included one child, and that 46 people had been injured in the shelling.

Russian forces responsible for atrocities in Bucha — Pentagon

The US Department of Defense said that Russian forces are responsible for atrocities committed in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

Bucha is located in the Kyiv region, lying just outside Ukraine's capital and adjacent to the town of Irpin.

"I think it's fairly obvious - not just to us, but to the world - that Russian forces are responsible for the atrocities in Bucha," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

"Now, exactly who, what units, whether they're contractors or Chechens, I don't think we're able to say right now," Kirby said.

"But we're certainly not refuting that these atrocities occurred, and that they occurred at the hands of Russians."

Ukraine accused Russia of committing a massacre in Bucha after pictures surfaced that showed bodies lying in the town's streets.

Ukraine atrocities draw int'l condemnation

France to expel Russian diplomats

France said late on Monday that it would expel a number of Russian diplomats.

France's foreign affairs ministry said that the activities of the diplomats went against the country's "security interests."

The ministry said this was part of a joint European action.

Medvedev: Russia will react harshly to expulsion of diplomats

Deputy chairman of Russia's security council and former president Dmitry Medvedev said that Moscow would respond harshly to the expulsion of diplomats from Western countries.

"It will be symmetrical and destructive for bilateral relations," Medvedev said.

Medvedev called the expulsion of diplomats a "senseless" practice that "leads nowhere."

HRW legal advisor 'pretty optimistic' war crimes cases will materialize 

Human Rights Watch (HRW) senior legal advisor Aisling Reidy told DW that the organization, like several other international organs, was just beginning its investigation into what happened at Bucha and other Ukrainian communities during Russian occupation.  

But Reidy said that while HRW did not have enough information to see the full scope of the events, they did have witnesses.  

"We do know that there have been war crimes, that we've spoken to people who witnessed war crimes having been committed there," Reidy said.  

"We were able to document one witness account of a woman who had you know, actually, eye witnessed a summary execution where men had been lined up in a row for them kneeling down, and one of them had their t-shirt pulled over their head and then was shot in the back of the head," she said. 

Reidy said she believed it was "quite likely" that those responsible for the crimes could be found, given that a lot of information about the Russian military and its operations exists. 

"I think there's going to be evidence there of who was operating where when different war crimes were committed. There's going to be, in some extent, you know, eyewitness testimony that may help narrow down who's responsible." 

Reidy said that the International Criminal Court would likely seek individuals who bear the most responsibility.  

"[This] may not mean the person who pulled the trigger on the ground, but who is in charge of that particular operation, who was the commander and should have known what was going on, could have prevented it, fail to punish it, and that's known as command responsibility," she said. 

Extraditing Russian soldiers or officials to international courts could prove rather more challenging, however.

HRW spokesperson on Ukraine atrocities

Biden repeats that Putin is a 'war criminal'

US President Joe Biden on Monday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a "war criminal." Similar comments have drawn critical responses from Moscow in the past.

"This guy is brutal, and what's happening in Bucha is outragreous," said Biden, also pledging further sanctions against Russia. 

Biden however stopped short of using the word "genocide" employed by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Germany expels Russian diplomats 

Germany declared 40 Russian diplomats "undesirable persons," meaning they must return to Russia, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announced. The affected individuals, whom Berlin believes to be members of Russia's intelligence services, will have five days to leave Germany. 

Baerbock spoke of "a significant number of members of the Russian embassy, undesirables who have worked every day here in Germany against our freedom, against the cohesion of our society." 

"We will not tolerate this any longer," she said.  

The decision was communicated to Russian Ambassador Sergei Nethayev, after he was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Monday. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it would respond accordingly to Germany's decision to expel the 40 Russian diplomats, according to Interfax news agency. Though details on how Moscow would respond were not provided, tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions have been very common in recent weeks, months and even years.

Germany expels 40 Russian diplomats

Germany puts Gazprom Germania under state trusteeship

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Monday that he had appointed the German government's regulator for electricity, gas and other core industries in temporary control of the German subsidiary of Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom. 

Gazprom had announced on Friday that it was separating from its Gazprom Germania subsidiary, having previously been the sole owner. It did not make clear whether the organization had been sold, or who it planned to leave in control. 

Habeck said that the company controlled critical infrastructure in Germany and that the lack of clarity over its ownership led to the temporary step. The Bundesnetzagentur regulator is scheduled to control the company until the end of September. 

"Ordering the trusteeship serves both the maintenance of public security and order and the maintenance of supply security," Habeck said. "Gazprom Germania GmbH [plc] with its headquarters in Berlin is a domestic company." 

The company is primarily involved in gas trade, transportation and storage, and owns other companies in the German gas industry.

EU ready to send investigators following Bucha discoveries — von der Leyen

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU was ready to send investigators to probe possible war crimes.

Von der Leyen's comments came following talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about what she called "the dreadful murders that have been uncovered in Bucha."

A Joint Investigation Team has been established with Ukraine, according to von der Leyen, and it will "collect evidence and investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity."

Investigation teams were on hand and ready to be sent to support Ukraine Prosecution Services, and relevant authorities were ready to assist.

Von der Leyen stressed the need for a global response saying talks were ongoing between the EU's cross-border criminal justice agency and the International Criminal Court for a joint investigative approach. 

Merkel defends 2008 NATO decision on Ukraine membership

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended the decision not to admit Ukraine into NATO in 2008.

This follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calling out Merkel and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy by name late on Sunday when talking about the alleged killing of civilians in Bucha. Zelenskyy said France and Germany's reported resistance to a bid to fast track Ukraine's NATO membership had proven to be a failed policy.

"Former German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel stands by her decisions in connection with the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest," a spokesperson for Merkel told German news agency dpa.

The statement also said that, in light of the images from Bucha, international and German efforts to stop the conflict had Merkel's "full support."

Ukraine had requested NATO membership in 2008 at a summit in Romania, but the request was rejected by EU member states.

Germany's comparative closeness to Russia has come under scrutiny more generally in recent weeks, hitting both the country's major parties.

Social Democrat former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has faced particular criticism for his post-politics ties to Russian oil and gas, but Ukraine's ambassador in Berlin on Sunday also singled out current President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as partly to blame, given his past as foreign minister.

DW's Rebecca Ritters reports from Lviv

Oligarch's superyacht seized by Spanish police

Spanish authorities on Monday impounded a superyacht belonging to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. The vessel which is valued at $99 million (€90 million euros) was seized in a shipyard in Mallorca at the request of US authorities.

Documents and storage devices were among the items seized.

Vekselberg's ship is the first Russian yacht seized by the US under sanctions imposed after the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. 

"It will not be the last.'' Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. "Together, with our international partners, we will do everything possible to hold accountable any individual whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war,'' he added. 

Vekselberg, who was born in Ukraine, is not on the list of individuals sanctioned by the EU in response to the invasion of Ukraine. However, he was placed on a US sanctions list relating to allegations of interference in the 2016 US presidential elections, and is on a list of people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Vekselberg has a long history of ties to the US. In the past, he was a green card holder and had homes in New York and Connecticut. 

Vekselberg has been a major player in aluminium. He ranks among the wealthiest people in Russia and owns the world's largest collection of Faberge eggs.

A Spanish Civil Guard stands by the yacht owned by a Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg which was seized at a Mallorca shipyard
Viktor Vekselberg is among the wealthiest individuals and is considered to be in Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circleImage: Francisco Ubilla/AP/picture alliance

Radiological risks in Chernobyl exclusion zone overstated

In the past weeks, Ukrainian authorities have sounded the alarm about the radiological risks in the Chernobyl exclusion zone from wildfires and dust caused by Russian hostilities, heavy vehicles and trench-digging.

However, scientists have told DW that the facts have been misconstrued and the radiological risks from the exclusion zone have been overstated. Before Ukrainian forces retook Chernobyl, the country’s parliamentary Human Rights Commissioner Liudmyla Denisova claimed that 10,000 hectares of the Chernobyl exclusion zone were uncontrollably ablaze, causing risks of cross-border radioactive air pollution. The claims and warnings were repeated by Ukrainian parliamentarians and news outlets.

However, the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), which detects and monitors wildfires from space, told DW that just 1,000 hectares had caught fire within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of Chernobyl and are no longer ablaze. These months usually have elevated fire risks anyway, due to agricultural practices.

Even if the whole area did catch fire, the radiological risks are low. Valery Kashparov, Director of Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology (UIAR), told DW that the supposed risks are “the opinion of incompetent people.” Kashparov said fires in the exclusion zone do not pose a radiological hazard to the population outside the Chernobyl zone or to firefighters.

He said claims of Russian soldiers receiving radiation poisoning were impossible, unless they were actually inside the destroyed fourth unit of the power plant or the radioactive waste storage facilities, of which there is no evidence.

Nikolaos Evangeliou, a scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research who has studied Chernobyl and Fukushima extensively, told DW that modelling of fires in the exclusion zone found even catastrophic burning presented insignificant dangers for the European population.

Evangeliou said although the dust in the exclusion zone is radioactive, the muddy conditions in Ukraine at the moment mean it is unlikely that any dust will be thrown into the atmosphere. It may be a different story if the war continues into summer.

The most worrying scenario for Evangeliou, from a radiological standpoint, is the risk of a missile hitting a nuclear site. To this end, he has released daily models of possible cross-border outcomes from a major nuclear incident in Ukraine. However, for Ukrainians, Russian behavior around Chernobyl presented an intolerable risk that brought back memories of the initial disaster.

UN watchdog to conduct Chernobyl mission

US seeks Russia's suspension from Human Rights Council

In response to Ukrainian accusations of war crimes carried out by Russian forces, the US has said that it will ask the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia from its position on the Human Rights Council.

"Russia's participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce," US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during a visit to Romania. "And it is wrong, which is why we believe it is time the UN General Assembly vote to remove them," she added.

Russia is in its second term out of three sitting in the Geneva-based council. A two-thirds majority vote can oust any member for systemic violations of human rights.

The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet expressed her horror on Monday after seeing the images coming out of Bucha.

"I am horrified by the images of civilians lying dead on the streets and in improvised graves in the town of Bucha in Ukraine," she said in a statement.

"Reports emerging from this and other areas raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes, grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law," she added.

Germany condemns scenes from Bucha

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock joined the many voices condemning the mass killing of civilians in the town of Bucha outside Kyiv.

"The pictures out of Kyiv are unbearable," Baerbock wrote on Twitter. "Putin's unrestrained violence is wiping out innocent families and knows no limits."

She also called for those responsible to be brought to justice and for further sanctions against Moscow.

"Those who are responsible for these war crimes must be held to account. We will increase our sanctions against Russia and strengthen our support for Ukraine," she added.

Sumy towns free of Russian troops, governor says

The governor of the northern Ukrainian region of Sumy, Dmytro Zhivitsky, said on Monday that there were no longer any Russian troops in towns or villages in the region.

Sumy lies on the border with Belarus and parts of it had been occupied for almost a month. Zhivitsky said in a video message that the Russian forces had left behind lots of military equipment.

The news agency RBK Ukraina also said that the road between Kyiv and Chernihiv was once again open on Monday. The mayor of the city, which is 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Kyiv, said that Russian shelling had destroyed 70% of the city.

Kremlin denies accusations of civilian killings

Moscow has again denied the accusations from Ukraine that Russian forces carried out mass killings in towns around the capital, Kyiv, while they were under Russian control.

"We categorically deny any accusations," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.

He claimed that the footage of dead bodies in Bucha were "fakes" and said that Russia would push ahead with its call for a UN Security Council meeting over what it called "Ukrainian provocations."

Peskov also urged the international community not to draw any conclusions.

"The situation is undoubtedly serious and we would ask that many international leaders not rush with their statements, not rush with their baseless accusations, request information from different sources, and at least listen to our explanations."

He did not say whether outrage over Bucha would hamper the talks planned for Monday between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators.

'Lots of people unaccounted for' – Nick Connolly reports from Kyiv

Spanish and Polish PMs denounce 'genocide' 

The prime ministers of Spain and Poland have called the killings of civilians in the towns around Kyiv "genocide."

Polish leader Mateusz Morawiecki called for an international investigation into the claims made by Ukraine that Russian soldiers executed, raped and tortured civilians in the towns of Bucha and Irpin.

"These bloody massacres committed by Russians, by Russian soldiers, deserve to be called what they are. This is genocide and it must be judged," Morawiecki told reporters.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also called for an investigation into Russian war crimes.

"We will do everything to ensure that those who have perpetrated these war crimes do not go unpunished, and therefore appear before the courts... to deal with these alleged cases of (crimes against) humanity, war crimes and why not say it too, genocide," he said.

EU considers urgent sanctions in wake of 'atrocities'

The European Union condemned the "atrocities" that have been reported in several towns that had been occupied by Russian forces and said it is planning on introducing new sanctions against Moscow.

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that "the Russian authorities are responsible for these atrocities, committed while they had effective control of the area. They are subject to the international law of occupation."

He added that the "haunting images of large numbers of civilian deaths and casualties, as well as destruction of civilian infrastructures show the true face of the brutal war of aggression Russia is waging against Ukraine and its people."

As a result, the bloc "will advance, as a matter of urgency, work on further sanctions against Russia."

Red Cross: 'We've seen images of utter desolation and destruction'

Alyona Synenko, a Ukrainian working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), spoke with DW about alleged atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Irpin.

"The images that are circulating and that we saw are simply shocking. And it is at the core of the international humanitarian law that civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected," she said of accusations that Moscow's troops had executed civilians and raped local women.

"If we don't work independently, we simply don't work because neutrality and independence are at the core principles of what we do that allow us to document violations of international humanitarian law and speak with warring parties to prevent those violations from happening," she said of the ICRC's need to work independently and in a non-partisan way.

"And this is what we are striving to do in Ukraine as well. Of course, the access has been extremely difficult to many places because of the heavy fighting, heavy shelling," she added.

'People need just absolutely everything': ICRC

"We've seen images of utter desolation and destruction. Entire civilian neighborhoods are destroyed beyond repair. Streets are littered with unexploded remnants of war. There are still places that are heavily mined and are extremely dangerous to get to, which is a huge problem for us because we are trying to get more supplies into these places. And unfortunately, right now it is impossible to send trucks."

Ukraine renews calls for German embargo of Russian fuel

The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, called on the German government to reconsider its stance on sanctions against Russian fossil fuels following the accusations of mass killings in areas formerly occupied by Russian forces.

He addressed the German government in a tweet, saying: "I recommend you read these reports about raped and murdered children in Bucha and Irpin before you start explaining to us again why an immediate embargo on Russian gas, oil and coal isn't feasible."

"How will Germany live with this?" he added.

Number of bodies in Bucha reaches 330 — report

The Ukrainian newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda reported that the number of bodies found in the city of Bucha has risen to 330-340, citing a local funeral service.

A worker told the paper that they did not have complete lists of those allegedly killed by the Russian troops, adding that a search for further victims is ongoing. 

France calls for fresh sanctions after Bucha killings

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that he was in favor of introducing new sanctions against Russia after Ukraine said that Russian forces had carried out mass killings of civilians in areas around Kyiv.

Macron told French Inter radio that there were "clear indications" of Russian war crimes in Bucha. "What happened in Bucha demands a new round of sanctions and very clear measures," he added.

He also called for the individuals responsible to be held accountable. "International justice must take care of this and those who committed these crimes will have to answer for them," Macron said.

He joined other European officials in tabling again the possibility of imposing sanctions against Russian fossil fuel exports. The EU is broadly dependent on Russian oil and gas while the Russian economy is dependent on its fossil fuel exports.

UK intelligence notes Russian consolidation in Donbas

Monday's intelligence update from the UK's Ministry of Defence stated that Russia is consolidating its position in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine — parts of which have been under the control of Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

The update also said that further Russian forces, as well as the soldiers from the Wagner mercenary group with links to Moscow, were being deployed in the eastern region.

US condemns 'atrocities' in Bucha

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington strongly condemns the killings of civilians in Bucha and other areas across Ukraine.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Blinken described the killings as "apparent atrocities" that were committed by "Kremlin forces."

"We are pursuing accountability using every tool available, documenting and sharing information to hold accountable those responsible," the top US diplomat said.

'Horrifying images' in towns near Kyiv

Zelenskyy asks for support in video message at the Grammy Awards 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared in a pre-recorded message at the Grammy Awards urging viewers to "support us in any way you can. Any, but not silence."

"On our land we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence. Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story," he added. 

John Legend then performed a new song, "free" with Ukrainian artists Mika Newton, Siuzanna Iglidan and poet Lyuba Yakimchuk.

The Recording Academy also urged viewers to donate to help Ukraine and to join Global Citizen's #StandUpForUkraine campaign.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the audience of the 64th Annual Grammy Awards
Zelenskyy calls for support at the Grammy AwardsImage: Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

Dutch journalist deported from Ukraine

Dutch journalist Robert Dulmers was expelled from Ukraine after posting a video of a Russian missile attack on an oil refinery and fuel storage facility in Odesa.

He said Ukrainian authorities told him he revealed state secrets by posting images of the Russian missile impact in the key port city.

Dulmers has been reporting from Ukraine for the Nederlands Dagblad newspaper since the start of the war.

After being detained by unidentified operatives, he was driven to the Moldovan border and was told he was banned from entering Ukraine for ten years.

The Dutch Journalists' Association NVJ appealed to Ukrainian authorities to reconsider the decision, Dutch public broadcaster NOS reported

Zelenskyy creates agency to investigate and prosecute Russian war crimes

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fears that "more terrible things could unfold" and "even more deaths and abuses" could emerge from Ukrainian regions still under Russian control.

"Hundreds of people were killed. Tortured, executed civilians. Corpses on the street," he said in a Sunday evening video message.

Zelenskyy accused Russians of committing atrocities against unarmed civilians in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities.

The Ukrainian leader also announced the creation of a special agency to investigate and litigate crimes committed by Russian forces.

"There is a common responsibility. For these killings, for this torture, for arms blown off by blasts... For the shots in the back of the head," Zelenskyy added.

Images from Bucha near Kyiv, where civilian corpses were found on the streets and mass graves were found after Russia's withdrawal, have prompted international outrage.

A journalist takes video of a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv
A mass grave has been discovered in the town of BuchaImage: Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo/picture alliance

Zelensky also took aim at former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's former President Nicolas Sarkozy, claiming their Russia policy contributed to the current crisis.

"I invite Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy to visit Bucha and see what a policy of concessions for 14 years has led to," he said.

In 2008, Germany, France and smaller NATO states withstood pressure from the US to offer Ukraine membership of the alliance, saying it wasn't ready and Russia could be antagonized.

Laws-of-war violations by Russian forces documented in several areas of Ukraine

Satellite image shows mass grave site in Bucha

New satellite imagery of Bucha revealed a 45-foot (13.71 meter) trench at a site where a mass grave has been identified, a US satellite data firm says.

The pictures from Maxar Technologies showed trench dug into the grounds of the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints.

The images were captured on 31 March, but the company said the first signs of excavation for a mass grave were seen on March 10.

Bodies were first buried in the grave on the church grounds in the first days of the war, residents told CNN.

Ukraine accused Russian forces of carrying out a "massacre" in the town on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Russia requested the UN Security Council to convene to discuss the accusations.

Round-up of events in Ukraine war on Sunday

Western leaders have condemned the killings of unarmed civilians in Bucha and the surrounding areas of Kyiv.

Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said prosecutors investigating possible war crimes carried out by Russian troops. Ukrainian forces found 410 bodies in towns near Kyiv over the weekend.

A leading rights group, Human Rights Watch told DW it had documented what it described as "apparent war crimes."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced what he called Russia's attempt to eliminate "the whole nation" during an appearance Sunday on US broadcaster CBS, saying: "This is genocide."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Western allies would agree on further sanctions on Russia in the coming days over its invasion of Ukraine and the "atrocities" committed by Russian troops in a town near Kyiv.

Scholz: 'We will decide on further measures against Russia in the coming days'

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has called on the European Union to discuss a ban on Russian gas imports after reports emerged of Russian forces committing atrocities near Kyiv.

Russia requested a UN Security Council session on Monday over Bucha war crime allegations. Russia described photos and videos from the town as a "staged performance," despite the first-hand verifications of the killings by journalists from several international outlets.

Russian missiles also targeted key infrastructure, including a likely oil refinery, in Ukraine's southern port of Odesa.

ab, lo/rs (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Russian missiles strike port city of Odesa