PARIS — The French foreign ministry announced Monday that France has decided to expel “numerous” Russian diplomats, saying their “activities were contrary to our security interests.”
The announcement came hours after Germany said it was expelling 40 diplomat and Lithuania said it expelled the Russian ambassador and will recall its envoy in Moscow. No number was immediately given for how many are being expelled by France.
German news agency dpa quoted German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser as saying that the diplomats being expelled are those “whom we attribute to the Russian intelligence services.”
Faeser says that “we won’t allow this criminal war of aggression to also be conducted as an information war in Germany..”
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Russia faces growing outrage amid new evidence of atrocities
— Ukraine accuses Russia of massacre, city strewn with bodies
— World reacts with horror at images of slain civilians in Ukraine towns
— Drug shortages persist in Russia after start of Ukraine war
—Ukrainian refugees find jobs, kindness as they settle in
— Russian, Ukrainian ballet stars to dance together in Naples
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
UNITED NATIONS — Britain’s U.N. ambassador says a previously planned U.N. Security Council meeting Tuesday is certain to focus “front and center” on the killing of large numbers of civilians in Ukraine.
Some of the dead were found with their hands tied behind their backs after Russian troops left the Ukrainian town of Bucha on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv.
The United Kingdom holds the council presidency in April, and Ambassador Barbara Woodward said Britain didn’t grant Russia’s request for a meeting on the situation in Bucha on Monday because “we didn’t see a good reason to have two meetings back to back on Ukraine.”
She told reporters that the Security Council will be briefed Tuesday by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo.
Woodward said that “the images that we saw coming out of Bucha over the weekend were harrowing, appalling, probable evidence of war crimes and possibly a genocide.”
MOSCOW — Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says the country feels no impact from the expulsion of its diplomats by various European countries, and indicates Russia will respond in kind.
Medvedev was Russia’s president from 2008 through 2012 and is now deputy chairman of the security council under President Vladimir Putin. Writing on the messaging app Telegram, Medvedev says that “everyone knows the response: it will be symmetrical and destructive for bilateral relations.”
His comments came after Germany expelled 40 Russian diplomats Monday and Lithuania expelled the Russian ambassador and said it would recall its envoy in Moscow. France on Monday also announced it will expel “numerous” Russian diplomats.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated on Monday from the besieged port of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.
Vereshchuk said a total of 2,405 people were evacuated along a humanitarian corridor route running from Mariupol to the Ukraine-held city of Zaporizhzhia, with 1,553 of those coming from Mariupol itself and the rest from other locations in the heavily contested area.
She said the people used the dwindling number of private vehicles left in the area to get out of Mariupol and that a convoy of seven buses sent to help remained unable to enter the city to collect people.
Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, is a key Russian military objective that has faced horrific bombardment.
Vereshchuk added that 971 other people were evacuated from five locations in the eastern Luhansk region, where Russia is now focusing much of its military efforts. She accused Russia of “systematically breaching” a local cease-fire planned to facilitate evacuations there.
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian prosecutor-general Iryna Venediktova told Ukrainian TV today that a “similar humanitarian situation” to Bucha exists in other parts of the country where Russian forces recently left, such as the areas around the northern cities of Sumy and Chernihiv.
Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in areas outside the Ukrainian capital, including Bucha, after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops, many with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture.
She also said the situation in Borodyanka, which is further from Kyiv and was also held by Russian forces until recently, may be even worse.
Venediktova didn’t specify what exactly had happened in Borodyanka but said “the worst situation in terms of the victims” is there.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Romania’s parliament Monday evening in a video call in which the leader said had Ukraine not defended itself, Russia would have carried out atrocities like that of Bucha “all over Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy, who visited the town of Bucha on Monday to see the alleged crimes of Russia’s forces against Ukrainian civilians, shared grim video footage during his address that showed areas strewn with dead bodies. The Bucha killings — which Zelenskyy labeled a “genocide” — have become the center of worldwide outrage against Russia.
“The military tortured people and we have every reason to believe that there are many more people killed,” Zelenskyy said. “Much more than we know now.”
The Ukrainian leader also called for tougher sanctions, saying “Russia must be deprived of all resources, primarily economic” and said that the fate of the region will be decided by the outcome of the war in Ukraine.
Before the Ukrainian leader’s address, the president of Romania’s Chamber of Deputies, Marcel Ciolacu, said the last few days “have shown us horrible images that have overwhelmed and revolted us all.”
“I support a speedy investigation by the International Criminal Court,” Ciolacu said.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian government says that 18 journalists have been killed in the country since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24.
The Ukrainian Culture and Information Ministry said in a statement on social media Monday that each of the deaths and other crimes against media representatives will be investigated.
The ministry added that another 13 journalists had been wounded, eight had been abducted or taken prisoner and three journalists were still missing. It said that several crimes had been committed against journalists from 11 countries, including Ukraine.
LVIV, Ukraine — The governor of Ukraine’s northern Sumy region says Russian forces no longer control any settlements in the area following their retreat, although some small groups of Russian troops remain.
The city of Sumy is near the border with Russia and was besieged by Russian troops when the invasion began in February, as other Russian forces pushed onward to join efforts to attack the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, from the northeast. Russia began withdrawing troops from the area around Kyiv last week and says it is now focusing its efforts on the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Sumy Gov. Dmytro Zhyvystskyy said on Ukrainian TV that “currently there are no occupied settlements” and that invading forces have pulled back across the border into Russia with their vehicles and artillery.
However, he added, “there are still individual units and small groups of Russian troops and now they are being caught” by the Ukrainian army and local Territorial Defense volunteers.
“A clean-up is happening across the whole territory of the region,” he said.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The United States is allocating $250,000 to the global chemical weapons watchdog to provide “assistance and protection” to Ukraine if it is targeted or threatened with chemical weapons.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced the contribution Monday, following a meeting last Thursday between Marc Shaw, deputy assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance and OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias.
Western nations have warned of possible chemical weapons attacks by Russian forces since Moscow launched its invasion of its neighbor in late February.
Shaw said in a statement that the United States “stands with Ukraine and all those who face the threat of chemical weapons use.”
He says he hopes the money will allow the organization to “quickly assist Ukraine as it seeks protection against chemical threats from the Russian government.”
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday called for a war crimes trial against Russian President Vladimir Putin and additional sanctions following reported atrocities in Bucha, one of the towns surrounding the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv where Ukrainian officials say the bodies of civilians have been found.
“What’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone sees it,” Biden said.
Biden’s comments came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the city called the Russian actions “genocide.” Zelenskyy also called for the West to apply tougher sanctions against Russia.
Biden, however, stopped short of calling the actions genocide.
The bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces, said Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, Iryna Venediktova. Associated Press journalists saw the bodies of at least 21 people in various spots around Bucha, northwest of the capital.
“We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight. And we have to gather all the detail so this can be an actual — have a war crimes trial,” Biden said.
WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. defense official says about two-thirds of the roughly 20 Russian battalion groups that had been located around Kyiv have now left and are either in Belarus or on their way there.
The U.S. has said that the “vast majority” of Russia’s approximately 125 battalion groups had been in Ukraine overall during the early fighting.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a military assessment, said the U.S. assesses that Russian forces are being resupplied and reinforced in Belarus and would then go back into Ukraine, potentially in the Donbas region in the east.
In addition, Russian troops have been moving out of Sumy and back into Russia. But they have been reinforcing and repositioning their artillery and putting more energy into the fight around the city of Izyum, which lies on a key route to the Donbas.
The official said overall, Russia has launched more than 1,400 missiles into Ukraine since the war began. In recent days, those strikes have been more focused on the east and on Mariupol. The defense official said the U.S. can’t independently verify details of the atrocities in Bucha, but has no reason to doubt the claims. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was speaking with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Monday morning.
– AP writer Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania on Monday announced that it will expel Russia’s ambassador and recall its envoy in Moscow in reaction to increasing signs that Russian forces may have committed war crimes in Ukraine.
The Baltic country also decided to close a Russian consulate in the port city of Klaipeda, where it has a large offshore LNG import terminal.
“Lithuania strongly condemned the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in occupied Ukrainian cities, including the brutal massacres in Bucha. All war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine will not be forgotten,” Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Monday.
He added that Lithuania’s ambassador to Ukraine was returning to Kyiv and that Lithuania’s European Union and NATO partners have been informed of its decision to expel the Russian ambassador. He called on them to do the same.
In neighboring Latvia, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said that Riga will narrow diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation, according to the Baltic News Service. No decision was made regarding reducing the ties.
A Russian law enforcement agency says it has launched its own investigation into allegations that Ukrainian civilians were massacred in suburbs of Kyiv which were held by Russian troops, focusing on what it calls “false information” about Russian forces.
The Investigative Committee claims Ukrainian authorities made the allegations “with the aim of discrediting Russian troops” and that those involved should be investigated over possible breaches of a new Russian law banning what the government deems to be false information about its forces.
Russian law enforcement has launched several investigations since Russian troops entered Ukraine, typically into incidents such as the shelling of areas held by Russia-backed separatists.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that Russia needs to move quickly to negotiate an agreement to end the war.
Speaking on a visit Monday to the town of Bucha outside Kyiv, where hundreds of civilians were found dead after Russian troops’ retreat last week, Zelenskyy said the evidence of atrocities makes it hard to conduct talks with Russia.
“It’s very difficult to conduct negotiations when you see what they did here,” Zelenskyy said, adding that in Bucha and other places “dead people have been found in barrels, basements, strangled, tortured.” He added that the Russian leadership “needs to think faster if it has what to think with.”
Zelenskyy added that “the longer the Russian Federation drags it out, the worse it will exacerbate its own situation and this war.” Zelenskyy reaffirmed his criticism of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s opposition to Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, saying that she and other Western leaders who resisted the move should come to Bucha to “see what the flirting with the Russian Federation leads to.”
GENEVA — The United States plans to seek a suspension of Russia from its seat on the U.N.’s top human rights body in the wake of rising signs that Russian forces may have committed war crimes in Ukraine, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Monday.
According to a statement from her office, Thomas-Greenfield made the call for Russia to be stripped of its seat in the Human Rights Council in the wake of reports over the weekend about violence against civilians in the town of Bucha, near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, after Russian forces pulled out.
Any decision to suspend Russia would require a decision by the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Russia and the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France and the United States — all currently have seats on the 47-member rights council, which is based in Geneva. The United States rejoined the council this year.
Thomas-Greenfield mentioned the U.S. plan in a meeting with Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, her office said.
In New York, General Assembly spokeswoman Paulina Kubiak said on Monday that no request for a meeting on the issue has been received yet.
GENEVA — The United Nations’ top human rights official is calling for “independent and effective investigations” into what happened in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement Monday that she is “horrified by the images of civilians lying dead on the streets and in improvised graves.”
She added that “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.”
Bachelet said it’s essential that all bodies be exhumed and identified so that victims’ families can be informed and the exact causes of death determined. She said all measures should be taken to preserve evidence.
“It is vital that all efforts are made to ensure there are independent and effective investigations into what happened in Bucha to ensure truth, justice and accountability, as well as reparations and remedy for victims and their families,” Bachelet said.
LONDON — Britain has condemned Russia’s “barbaric” killing of civilians in Ukraine, though it stopped short of calling Moscow’s actions genocide.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said bodies found in areas recently recaptured from Russia showed “despicable attacks against innocent civilians, and they are yet more evidence that Putin and his army are committing what appear to be war crimes in Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and some Western leaders have accused Russia of committing genocide.
Blain said “the prime minister’s view is that Putin crossed the threshold of barbarism some time ago,” but added that only a court can make a determination of genocide.
Britain is urging Western allies to enforce tougher sanctions to “ratchet up” pressure on Russia, including cutting it off completely from t
MOSCOW — Russia’s top diplomat has dismissed Ukraine’s accusations that Russian troops committed atrocities against its civilians as a staged provocation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the start of his talks Monday with U.N. Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths that Moscow sees the Ukrainian claim of a massacre of civilians in Bucha outside Kyiv as “a provocation that posed a direct threat to global peace and security.”
Lavrov noted that Russia has called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council but the U.K. that currently chairs it refused to convene it. He vowed to press the demand for holding the meeting.
Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in areas outside the Ukrainian capital after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops, many with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture. A growing number of world leaders have voiced outrage and called for tougher sanctions against Moscow.
Lavrov charged that the mayor of Bucha made no mention of atrocities against civilians a day after Russian troops left Bucha on Wednesday, but two days later scores of bodies were photographed scattered in the streets in what the Russian minister described as a “stage-managed anti-Russian provocation.”
MOSCOW — The Kremlin has strongly rejected the accusations that Russian troops committed atrocities against civilians in Ukraine and pushed for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the Ukrainian claims that Russian troops had killed hundreds of civilians outside Kyiv can’t be trusted, adding that “we categorically reject the accusations.” Peskov’s comment in a conference call with reporters followed the Russian Defense Ministry’s statement accusing the Ukrainian authorities of stage-managing what it described as a “provocation” to smear Russia.
Ukrainian authorities have said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in areas outside the Ukrainian capital after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops, many with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds and signs of torture. International leaders have condemned the reported atrocities and called for tougher sanctions against Moscow.
Peskov said that photo and video materials from the area reflected unspecified “manipulations” and urged international leaders to carefully analyze the facts and hear the Russian arguments before rushing to blame Moscow.
Russia has called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council but the U.K. which currently chairs it refused to convene it, according to Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian envoy at the international organization’s offices in Vienna.
Peskov said that Russia will keep pushing for the meeting, noting that Russia wants the issue to be discussed at the highest level.
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top diplomat has joined a growing chorus of international criticism blaming the Russian armed forces for alleged atrocities committed against civilians in Ukraine.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says “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.”
Borrell said Monday 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.”
Working with the U.S., U.K. and other international partners, the EU has been ramping up sanctions against Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February. Borrell says the 27-country bloc “will advance, as a matter of urgency, work on further sanctions against Russia.”