Ukraine seeks ruinous Russian sanctions amid European hesitancy

Zelenskyy says Russia's troops are now dragging civilian bodies from streets and buildings to hide evidence

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv on April 5. Ukrainian Presidential Press Office / AP

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Ukraine wants economic sanctions that are destructive enough for Russia to end its war, after accusing some countries of still giving priority to money over punishment for civilian killings that the West condemns as war crimes.

The democratic world must reject Russian oil and completely block Russian banks from the international finance system, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily video address early on Thursday.

After images of dead civilians in the streets of Bucha sparked international condemnation, Mr Zelenskyy said Kremlin forces were trying to cover up evidence of atrocities.

"We have information that the Russian military has changed its tactics and is trying to remove people who have been killed from streets and basements," he said, without providing proof.

"This is just an attempt to hide the evidence and nothing more."

Moscow has denied attacking civilians and says images of bodies in Bucha were staged to justify more sanctions against Russia and derail peace talks.

Russia's six-week-long invasion has so far forced more than 4 million to flee abroad, killed or injured thousands, left a quarter of the population homeless, turned cities into rubble and prompted western restrictions on Russian elites and the economy.

Washington on Wednesday announced measures, including sanctions on President Vladimir Putin's two adult daughters and Russia's Sberbank, and a ban on Americans investing in Russia.

The US also wants Russia expelled from the Group of 20 major economies forum and will boycott some meetings at the G20 in Indonesia if Russian officials attend.

But the head of Ukraine's presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said late on Wednesday that its allies must go further.

"Sanctions against Russia must be ruinous enough for us to end this terrible war," Mr Yermak said.

"My goal is to impose an embargo on the supply to Russia of technology, equipment, minerals and ores [and] rare earth dual-use minerals, and thus stop the production of weapons in Russia."

Mr Zelenskyy was earlier critical of some in the West.

"The only thing that we are lacking is the principled approach of some leaders … who still think that war and war crimes are not something as horrific as financial losses," he told Irish politicians.

EU diplomats failed to approve new sanctions on Wednesday, as technical issues needed to be addressed, including on whether a ban on coal would affect existing contracts, sources said.

EU member Hungary said it was prepared to meet a Russian request to pay roubles for its gas, breaking ranks with the rest of the bloc and highlighting the continent's reliance on imports that have held it back from a tougher response on the Kremlin.

Western policymakers have denounced the killings in Bucha as war crimes, and Ukrainian officials say a mass grave by a church there contained between 150 and 300 bodies.

Russia says it is engaged in a "special military operation" designed to demilitarise and "de-Nazify" Ukraine. Ukraine and western governments reject that as a false pretext for its invasion.

Updated: April 07, 2022, 12:29 AM