(NewsNation) — Western governments toughened sanctions against Russia Wednesday and sent more weapons to Ukraine, after several calls by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to step up support for the war-torn country.
The United States sanctioned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova, on top of tightening penalties on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, Russia’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank, and several critical state-owned enterprises.
The U.S. is also targeting Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin; the wife and children of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; and members of Russia’s Security Council, including Dmitry Medvedev, a former president and prime minister. The Biden Administration move to cut off Putin’s loved ones is a response to accusations that Russian forces are killing hundreds of Ukrainian civilians.
Images of civilians killed in the streets of Bucha and other towns have caused a global outcry. Western nations have expelled scores of Moscow’s diplomats and were expected to roll out more sanctions Wednesday amid a flurry of meetings of NATO, Group of Seven and European Union diplomats.
Britain also announced asset freezes targeting Sberbank and the Credit Bank of Moscow and designated eight Russian oligarchs whom it says Putin “uses to prop up his war economy.”
The EU’s executive branch, meanwhile, proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia, worth an estimated $4.4 billion per year. It would be the first time the 27-nation bloc has sanctioned the country’s lucrative energy industry over the war, though it may stop short of cutting off Russia’s lucrative oil and gas exports to Europe.
Biden was expected to sign an an executive order that would ban new investment in Russia by Americans no matter where they are living. The U.S. Treasury Department was preparing more sanctions against Russian state-owned enterprises, according to the White House.
The Ukrainian president has said civilians had been tortured, shot in the back of the head, thrown down wells, blown up with grenades in their apartments and crushed to death by tanks while in cars. Zelenskyy told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that those responsible should immediately be brought up on war crimes charges in front of a tribunal like the one established at Nuremberg after World War II.
“There is no security,” he told the body. “So where is the peace that the United Nations was created to guarantee?”
Ukrainian authorities have said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in towns around Kyiv, and the Ukrainian president challenged the U.N. to kick Russia off the Security Council and “do everything that we can do to establish peace.” Barring that, he told the council, “Dissolve yourself.”
Since the start of the war, Putin’s efforts to take the capital Kyiv have been unsuccessful, so forces are now storming into the Donbas, where the Ukraine military has said is it bracing for a new offensive.
Ukrainian authorities urged people living in the Donbas to evacuate now, ahead of an impending Russian offensive, while there is still time.
“Later, people will come under fire,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, “and we won’t be able to do anything to help them.”
A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence estimates, said it will take Russia’s battle-damaged forces as much as a month to regroup for a major push on eastern Ukraine.
Overnight, however, Russian forces attacked a fuel depot and a factory in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, just west of the Donbas, the region’s governor, Valentyn Reznichenko, said on the messaging app Telegram early Wednesday. He said the oil depot was destroyed. The number of casualties was unclear.
In the Luhansk region, which lies in the Donbas, shelling of Rubizhne on Tuesday killed one person and wounded five more, Regional Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram.
Parts of Luhansk and the other Donbas region of Donetsk have been under control of Russia-backed rebels since 2014 and are recognized by Moscow as independent states. So far, Ukrainian forces have held back Russian troops pushing into the area but remain outnumbered in both troops and equipment, Zelenskyy said in a video address to his country late Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the mayor of the besieged port city of Mariupol put the number of civilians killed there at more than 5,000 Wednesday, as Ukraine collected evidence of Russian atrocities on the ruined outskirts of Kyiv and braced for what could become a climactic battle for control of the country’s industrial east.
Zelenskyy had said Western sanctions must go much further.
“After the things the world saw in Bucha, sanctions against Russia must be commensurate with the gravity of war crimes committed by the occupiers,” he said in his overnight address.
He said Western leaders would be judged harshly “if after this, Russian banks are able to function as usual; if after this, goods are able to flow into Russia as usual; if after this, European Union countries will pay Russia for energy as usual.”
Russia has insisted its troops have committed no war crimes. Moscow’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said scenes of bodies in the streets were “a crude forgery” staged by the Ukrainians.
However, high-resolution satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed many of the bodies laid in the open for weeks while Russian forces were in the town.
NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to continue to discuss strategy. The Biden administration is sending another $100 million in aid to Ukraine, including Javelin missiles. The funds are in addition to the $300 million in military aid announced days earlier, including laser-guided rocket systems and Switchblade tactical drones.
New sanctions by the U.S. are expected to “degrade key instruments of Russian state power, impose acute and immediate economic harm on Russia, and hold accountable the Russian kleptocracy that funds and supports Putin’s war,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.