The United Nations’ humanitarian chief is “not optimistic” that a ceasefire will be reached amid mounting evidence of atrocities by the Russian military in Ukraine.
Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths told the Associated Press on Thursday that the two sides “have very little trust in each other.” The two countries staged peace talks last week in Turkey but largely failed to produce a breakthrough — Russian President Vladimir Putin tampered expectations even before negotiations began.
On Thursday, both the U.S. and European Union escalated punishments on Russia: the U.S. Senate unanimously in favor of banning the importation of oil from Russia and ending normal trade relations with the country, while European Union nations agreed to new sanctions on Russia that include a ban on importing its coal.
The U.N. General Assembly also approved a U.S.-initiated resolution to suspend Russia from the world organization’s Human Rights Council amid mounting evidence of atrocities by the Russian military in Ukraine. The vote was 93-24 with 58 abstentions.
“War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights,” Ukraine Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya tweeted after the vote. “Grateful to all member states which supported the relevant UNGA resolution and chose the right side of history.”
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LATEST VISUAL EXPLANATIONS:Mapping and tracking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
►The UK Defense Ministry said Russian forces have now fully withdrawn from northern Ukraine to Belarus and Russia.
►Microsoft said it has disrupted Russian cyberattack attempts to target Ukrainian institutions, including media organizations.
►German intelligence authorities have intercepted Russian military radio traffic discussing atrocities to civilians in the Ukraine city of Bucha, multiple media outlets reported Thursday.
►Russia’s Defense Ministry said it struck fuel storage sites around the cities of Mykolaiv and Zaporozhe in the south of Ukraine and Kharkiv and Chuguev in the east overnight using cruise missiles fired from ships in the Black Sea.
Russians eye Donbas region in ‘the next pivotal battle of the war’
As they departed Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, Russian forces left behind a path of terror after weeks of siege: crushed buildings, streets littered with destroyed cars and residents in desperate need of food and other aid. And yet, the Russians wound up retreating after facing fierce resistance on the battlefields.
Now that Moscow is shifting its offensive toward the Donbas region in the east, what can be expected in Ukraine’s industrial heartland?
Ukrainian and Western officials say the Russians plan to encircle tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops in Donbas by moving from Izyum, near Kharkiv in the north, and from besieged Mariupol in the south. The timing will depend on how quickly Russia can take the southern port city, which has been reduced to rubble after weeks of bombardment but has yet to fall to the invading forces. Russia also needs to replenish the troops that were pulled back from Kyiv and other areas in the north.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in an analysis that the Russian troops will likely try to advance from Izyum to capture the strategic city of Slovyansk and link up with other Russian forces in Donbas in what it said: “Will likely prove to be the next pivotal battle of the war in Ukraine.”
Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall shared his first update on social media since he was injured last month in Ukraine, and paid tribute to two colleagues who were killed in the attack.
“To sum it up, I’ve lost half a leg on one side and a foot on the other. One hand is being put together, one eye is no longer working, and my hearing is pretty blown, but all in all I feel pretty damn lucky to be here – and it is the people who got me here who are amazing!” Hall said on Twitter with a photo of himself on a stretcher.
Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, journalist Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova and Hall were traveling in a vehicle in Horenka, a village nearly 20 miles from Kyiv, when they were struck by incoming fire March 14. Zakrzewski and Kuvshynova were killed. Hall was evacuated days later.
Hall said for Zakrzewski, “working was his joy and his joy was infectious.”
— Jeanine Santucci
Contributing: The Associated Press
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