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Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine accuses Russian soldiers of rape, murder

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Ukraine on Sunday accused Russian forces of carrying out a “massacre” in the town of Bucha, while Western nations reacted to images of dead bodies there with calls for new sanctions against Moscow.

Ukraine’s defense minister on Sunday accused Russian forces of an array of atrocities.

Oleksii Reznikov said the crimes came to light after Ukrainian forces moved into cities and towns after the invaders withdrew.

“This is not a special operation, these are not police actions. These are ordinary racists, fascists, and inhumane, who simply committed crimes against civilians, raped, killed, shot them in the back of the head. The whole world needs to know about this.”

These images taken by Reuters witnesses in Bucha show what appear to be victims in a mass grave, and bodies lying in the streets.

Bucha lies 23 miles northwest of the capital Kyiv, an area Ukrainian troops said they recaptured on Saturday.

Bucha’s mayor, Anatoliy Fedoruk said on Sunday that 300 residents had been killed during a month-long occupation by the Russian army.

Reuters could not immediately verify this.

Russia’s defense ministry denied the Ukrainian allegations, saying footage and photographs showing dead bodies in Bucha were “yet another provocation” by Kyiv.

It said Russian military units had left Bucha on March 30, and that civilians had been free to move around the town or evacuate while it was under Russian control.

But the reports and images of dead civilians brought outraged pro-Ukrainian demonstrators to the streets of Berlin on Sunday.

“It is horrible, it is not about the war. It is not the war right now. They want to erase the Ukraine as the culture, as the people.”

And that sentiment echoed across Western capitals.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described images of dead bodies there as “a punch in the gut.”

And the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain, along with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, expressed outrage over the reports from Bucha.

Reznikov vowed to document the alleged atrocities, and said Ukraine would weigh bringing charges in the International Criminal Court.

”There is a whole list: these are war crimes, these are crimes against humanity.”

The images of corpses in civilian clothes left behind by departing Russian troops has prompted calls from officials in Ukraine and Europe for tougher sanctions on Moscow.

Via our partners at Reuters

Ukraine Crisis

U.S. President Biden plans huge military build-up in Europe to counter Putin

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U.S. President Joe Biden announces increase in America’s military presence across Europe over threat from Vladimir Putin

It comes as tensions between Russia and the West remain tense over President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

There will now be a permanent U.S. army headquarters in Poland, with new warships on their way to Spain, fighter jets to the UK and even ground troops to Romania.

President Biden announces plans to bolster U.S. presence in Europe

Biden says the strategic alliance will be “strengthened in all directions across every domain – land, air and sea”.

NATO’s longstanding commitment to ‘defend every inch of its territory’ has been reaffirmed and Biden warns “an attack against one is an attack against all.”

The pledge from Biden includes more naval destroyers stationed in Spain, two F-35 fighter jet squadrons positioned in the United Kingdom and a permanent headquarters in Poland for the U.S. 5th Army Corps.

This increased force posture comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drags on and countries in Europe grow increasingly nervous about the war on their continent.

“The United States and our allies, we’re going to step up,” Biden said the start of the NATO summit in Madrid.

“We’re proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever has been and it’s as important as it ever has been.”

The current location of 13 U.S. bases in Europe

U.S. presence grows

Since February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the U.S. Department of Defense has increased the number of U.S. troops in Europe to more than 100,000 service members, up from 80,000.

Here’s what the U.S plans to do in each European country:

  • Poland: permanent station for the 5th Army Corps Headquarters Forward Command Post, an Army garrison headquarters, and a field support battalion, to allow the U.S. to more easily deploy combat troops along NATO’s eastern flank
  • Romania: position a rotational brigade combat team
  • The Baltic region: increase rotational deployments of armored, aviation, air defense, and special operations forces
  • Spain: increase the number of destroyers stationed at Rota from four to six
  • United Kingdom: station two squadrons of F-35 fighter jets.
  • Germany: forward-station an air defense artillery brigade headquarters, a short-range air defense battalion, a combat sustainment support battalion headquarters, and an engineer brigade headquarters
  • Italy: forward-station a short-range air defense battery

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Ukraine Crisis

Sean Penn visits President Zelensky in Kyiv

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Sean Penn is the latest celebrity to travel to Ukraine and meet with President Zelensky

Actor Sean Penn is reportedly creating a documentary on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He is seeking to visit the war-torn areas where Russian troops have allegedly committed war crimes.

The leader thanked Penn for his support during the meeting. It comes a week after Zelensky met with Hollywood star Ben Stiller, who was visiting for humanitarian reasons.

“The whole world will soon be able to see the whole truth about the war thanks to his film. Sean, thank you for the support of our state and our people.”

UKRAINE’S PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY

Meanwhile, fresh vision has emerged of a Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping mall in the country’s east.

It’s understood 18 people are dead, and dozens are still missing. Moscow says it struck a nearby arms depot and is claiming the mall was empty at the time.

The blast sent shockwaves around surrounding areas, where people can be seen running away from the areas of impact.

Meanwhile, President Zelensky is calling Russia a terrorist state. He urged his U.N. counterparts to stand up and pay their respects, as he dialled in for urgent talks.

“Who of you does not agree that this is terrorism?”

UKRAINE’S PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY

Zelensky named victims of the war, including a three-month-old. He also drew on the U.N. Charter for maintaining international peace and security.

Meanwhile, Russia’s representatives expressed concern about President Zelensky’s speech. Dmitry Polyanskiy says he did not receive any consultation beforehand.

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Ukraine Crisis

Finland and Sweden one step closer to NATO membership as Turkey agrees

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Finland and Sweden are one step closer to NATO membership after Turkey officially agrees to support their nominations

Turkey has officially agreed to support Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership applications, paving the way for the two Nordic nations to join the strategic alliance. 

Lifting its veto, Turkey has now ended a weeks-long debate which has tested Western unity over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Finland’s President says the breakthrough comes after the three nations signed a joint memorandum to extend support against threats to each other’s security. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the memorandum addresses Turkey’s concerns.

FILE PHOTO: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference on the eve of a NATO summit, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium March 23, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

“I am pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” he told reporters at the NATO summit in Madrid.

“Turkey, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey’s concerns, including around arms exports and the fight against terrorism,”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

This all happened just hours before a NATO summit began in Madrid, with leaders hoping to display unity in the face of Russian aggression. 

Finland and Sweden’s application to join the nuclear-armed alliance is the biggest shift in European security in decades. 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the leaders of the G7 nations on Monday, pressing them for more heavy weaponry and help to end the war before winter sets in.

It comes as Russia defaults on debt for the first time in a century.

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