Calls grow for more sanctions on Russia after mass graves found around Kyiv

A soldier in a bombed-out building in Kharkiv, Ukraine
Oleg Supereka, who survived attacks on the Kharkiv Regional Administration building, is back at his post, despite the dangers, in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Rescue efforts continued Monday outside Kyiv as European leaders called for swift action against Russia for civilian deaths.

Calls for war-crime investigations and harsher sanctions on Moscow grew Monday as Ukrainian and Western officials responded to discoveries of mass graves and streets littered with the bodies of dead civilians after the Russian retreat from suburbs around Kyiv.

European nations, including Britain, Germany, France and Spain, vowed to punish Russia for alleged atrocities in a war that is now in its 40th day, even as Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, experiences a reprieve. As Russia’s military focus appeared to shift to southern and eastern areas, new strikes were reported overnight, including on the historic Black Sea port of Odesa and the city of Mykolaiv, both in the south. No information was available on deaths or injuries.

In an overnight video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that the most brutal images from newly liberated areas such as Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, were still to come. The Ukrainian government said it had counted 400 civilian deaths in the Kyiv suburbs, including the devastated town of Irpin, since invading Russian troops began departing last week.

“After the expulsion of the occupiers, even worse things could be found there. Even more death and torture,” Zelensky said. “This is the nature of the Russian forces who came onto our land.”

Zelensky has described the scenes in Bucha, where photos and videos show mass graves and dead men and women face down on residential roads, as evidence of Russian “genocide” against Ukrainians. He pledged to set up a special judicial mechanism, with the participation of international prosecutors and judges, to investigate alleged war atrocities.

The horrific scenes have generated international revulsion and demands that Russia be called to account.

A peace sign in the yellow and blue of Ukraine stands near the clock tower in downtown Santa Cruz

SANTA CRUZ UKRAINE RELIEF

How to help

Lookout is compiling a running list of efforts around Santa Cruz County to help those affected by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Please let us know if we’ve missed anything by emailing us here.

Ongoing: Capitola’s Sante Adairius Rustic Ales has released an IPA called Platform 4, with proceeds from sales going to World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit helping to feed Ukrainian refugees throughout the region. Platform 4 is available at both its Santa Cruz and Capitola locations. Follow Sante Adairius here for updates.

Ongoing: Pacific Cookie Company is selling a tower of a dozen cookies in the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine, with proceeds going to World Central Kitchen. Available at its Pacific Avenue store and online; details here.

Ongoing: Santa Cruz’s Sugar Bakery is donating proceeds from sales of its signature macarons to Ukraine relief. Follow here for details and updates.

Ongoing: Santa Cruz’s Temple Beth El is encouraging community members to donate to the Ukraine Crisis Fund from the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Details here.

Ongoing: Links to charitable organizations operating in and around Ukraine from the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County.

Oct. 3: Ukrainian quartet DakhaBrakha will perform at downtown Santa Cruz’s Kuumbwa Jazz Center, with net proceeds going to Ukraine relief fund Come Back Alive. Details here.

TBA: San Lorenzo Valley native chef Jessica Yarr has a pair of fundraisers in the works: a weekly soup pre-order, with 10% of proceeds going to the nonprofit Voices of Children Foundation, and an April fundraiser with baker Jennifer Latham, formerly of San Francisco’s famed Tartine Bakery. Sign up for Yarr’s newsletter here for more information, and follow her Eastern Europe-focused pop-up Chickenfoot here. Yarr raised $2,400 for nonprofit Sunflower of Peace with an event the first weekend of March.

“We will do everything to ensure that those who have perpetrated these war crimes do not go unpunished,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Monday, citing “alleged cases of [crimes against] humanity, war crimes and — why not say it, too — genocide.”

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday described the gruesome images as “unbearable.” Macron, who said he supported additional sanctions, said it was “very clear” that Russia committed war crimes.

And a top government official in Germany, a primary importer of Russian gas and one of the strongest holdouts against cutting off such trade, signaled Sunday that it might change course and support a ban. “There has to be a response,” Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said. “Such crimes must not remain unanswered.”

More than half of Germany’s gas comes from Russia. Europe overall receives 40% of its gas and 25% of its oil from Russia.

Speaking at a daily news briefing Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the images out of Bucha were fakes. “We categorically deny any allegations,” Peskov said.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in Ukraine. The U.S., United Nations and humanitarian groups have documented otherwise.

Although they were never able to enter central Kyiv, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government said its forces had successfully completed the “first phase” of Russia’s war against Ukraine and were shifting east to the industrial region of Donbas and other areas that are home to pro-Russia separatist movements.

Russian troops appeared to have left several towns around the northeastern city of Chernihiv by Monday, according to regional Gov. Viacheslav Chaus.

Chaus, who said that about 70% of the city is destroyed, warned remaining residents not to get too comfortable. In a message posted to the Telegram app, he counseled patience as Ukrainian troops clear mines.

“We must avoid new victims,” he said.

Major aid routes into the city have been cut off for weeks, but Ukrainian news outlet RBK Ukraina reported a positive development: The 92-mile car route between Kyiv and Chernihiv had been partially reopened Monday morning.

Individuals, organizations and businesses around Santa Cruz County are rallying behind those affected by Russia’s...

Farther east in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, the local prosecutor’s office said Monday that shelling of residential buildings Sunday left seven people dead and 34 injured.

The shifting terrain of war has left western parts of Ukraine in relative peace as local recovery efforts began even as war rages in the south and east.

The British Ministry of Defense warned Monday that Russian fighters were in a consolidate and reorganize” phase as they planned more offensives in Donbas. The ministry said fighters from Wagner, a Russian paramilitary company, were staging in the area.

At the same time, the Ukrainian military said in a Monday report that a “hidden mobilization” was underway by Russians to regroup amid their pullback from some parts of Ukraine.

“The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation plan to engage around 60,000 people during the mobilization,” the report said.

According to the United Nations, at least 1,417 civilians have been killed since Russia launched the war Feb. 24. About a quarter of Ukraine’s population of 44 million has been displaced, with more than 4 million fleeing the country.

McDonnell reported from Lviv and Kaleem from London.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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