War in Ukraine live updates: Russia is suspended from the U.N. Human Rights Council

Published April 7, 2022 at 8:14 AM EDT
Ukraine's UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks during a UN General Assembly vote on a draft resolution seeking to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council in New York City on April 7, 2022.
Timothy A. Clary
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AFP via Getty Images
Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya urged the General Assembly to adopt a draft resolution suspending Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council, saying thousands of Ukrainians have been killed, tortured, raped and robbed by Russia’s military.

Ukraine is asking NATO for more weapons, as the war front shifts away from Kyiv and toward the Donbas and eastern cities that are under siege. In places where fighting has eased, some people are returning home and businesses are trying to get back to work, to keep Ukraine’s economy moving.

Here's what else we're following today:

  • U.N. suspends Russia from the Human Rights Council: The General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia’s membership on the council, due to the humanitarian crisis and evidence of human rights abuses in Ukraine.
  • Intercepted: German intelligence says it intercepted Russian radio traffic of soldiers discussing killing civilians.
  • Evacuations: Ukraine is warning residents of eastern cities to get out while they can, saying Russian troops are regrouping and will be back.
Negotiations

Top Russian diplomat says Kyiv is backpedaling on draft peace deal

Posted April 7, 2022 at 2:00 PM EDT
A man wearing a suit speaks in front of part of a flag, which is blue and white.
Alexander Zemlianichenko
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Pool AP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a news conference after his talks with Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani in Moscow, Russia on Thursday.

Russia’s top diplomat accused Ukraine of undermining recent peace negotiations — saying Kyiv had altered proposals aimed at achieving a ceasefire with new terms “unacceptable” to Moscow.

In a video address Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Kyiv had changed the “most important proposal” to come out of recent talks in Turkey: a Ukrainian suggestion that any future security guarantees for Ukraine would not apply to Crimea. Russia had annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Lavrov said Kyiv was now proposing the status of Crimea and the Donbas — an area in eastern Ukraine where Moscow has recognized self-proclaimed separatist republics — be determined in a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lavrov also accused Kyiv of altering another provision that offered Russia transparency over any military maneuvers taken by a future neutral Ukrainian state.

"Such inability to agree once again highlights Kyiv's true intentions, its position of drawing out and even undermining the talks by moving away from the understandings reached,” said Lavrov.

Ukraine’s top negotiator, Mykhailo Podolyak, dismissed Lavrov’s claims.

"Mr. Lavrov is not directly related to the negotiation process, and so his statements are pure propaganda," Podolyak said in comments provided to Reuters. Podolyak also suggested Lavrov’s aim was to distract from international outrage over growing evidence Russian troops carried out atrocities against Ukrainian civilians, according to Reuters.

Lavrov accused Ukraine of exploiting Russia’s “gesture of goodwill” after Moscow committed to withdrawing its forces from areas around Kyiv and other northern cities. Instead, Lavrov said, Ukraine launched a “provocation in Bucha," accusing Ukraine of making what he called unfounded allegations against Russian troops to push new sanctions on Russia.

Lavrov also appeared to comment on a graphic video that surfaced this week that appeared to show Ukrainian soldiers killing at least one injured Russian prisoner-of-war after a deadly battle outside Kyiv. Lavrov accused “Ukrainian neo-Nazis” of “savage behavior” in recent treatment of Russian soldiers.

NPR has not independently verified the video; Ukrainian authorities have said they would investigate the incident.

In recent days, Russia has accused Ukraine of dragging out negotiations the Kremlin insists it wants to continue – a point again emphasized by Lavrov.

"Despite all the provocations, the Russian delegation will continue with the negotiation process, pressing for our own draft agreement that clearly and fully outlines our initial and key positions and requirements," Lavrov said.

Western military officials have suggested Moscow is also buying time as it regroups its forces and shifts focus to eastern Ukraine.

Interview

U.S.-based Zelenskyy adviser says Ukraine's economy could fail even if it wins the war

Posted April 7, 2022 at 1:26 PM EDT
A yellow tram passes by a barricade in a city street, near a row of pink and mint buildings.
Oleksandr Gimanov
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AFP via Getty Images
A tram passes behind barricade in downtown Odessa on Tuesday.

In 2019, an American lawyer named Andrew Mac agreed to serve as the Washington, D.C.-based adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"I took on this role thinking that it would be [a] low-key, once-in-a-while type of role, and when I took the role on it was one week before the impeachment scandal hit," he said, referring to the famous call between Zelenskyy and former President Donald Trump that led to Trump's first impeachment.

Now Mac is dealing with a much bigger crisis for Ukraine, as it defends itself from Russian attacks and pleads for more military and financial assistance from Western allies. Morning Edition's Steve spoke to Mac about what kind of help Ukraine needs.

Listen to their conversation or keep reading for details.

Mac described three phases of Ukrainian reaction to American help: disappointment, gratitude and concern for the future.

He said the U.S. started giving Ukraine weapons en mass in the second half of January, as warnings of a Russian invasion grew. He said that was better late than never, adding that the Biden administration has been "extremely helpful" in the weeks since the war started.

"Obviously, you know, time is of the essence," Mac said. He also noted that Ukraine's military has done well and appears to have won the first battle for Kyiv, which some earlier predictions said would fall in just a day or two.

Russian troops are now regrouping as they refocus on the eastern part of the war-torn country.

Mac said Russian President Vladimir Putin has "completely monopolized" control of Ukraine's Black Sea coast. And Ukraine's economy won't be able to stabilize if it isn't able to export food and metal products from Odesa to the rest of the world, he warned, as exports routes through Poland and other neighboring countries aren't enough to make up for the massive ports.

"Putin could very well lose the ground war, but he could economically cripple Ukraine," Mac said, adding that unless Ukraine gets significant economic assistance or the Black Sea ports are reopened with the help of a naval presence, Ukraine could be "economically not functioning in a matter of months."

In addition to economic help, Mac said Ukraine will need a different form of military aid as the battlefield changes. He predicts that the next battles in eastern Ukraine will be "the modern version of Stalingrad."

"Ukraine's going to need a lot more heavy artillery, tanks, planes, they're going to need helicopters," he said. "They're going to need everything you need to fight a significant land war in a confined area."

World reaction

U.N. members vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council

Posted April 7, 2022 at 12:07 PM EDT
U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths puts his hand on his head as he reacts to the sight of a mass grave Ukrainians dug near a church in Bucha, on April 7. Griffiths said investigators will probe civilian deaths uncovered after Russian troops withdrew. Evidence of civilian killings in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv - which Ukraine has blamed on Russian troops, allegations denied by Moscow - have shocked the world and triggered calls for new sanctions on Moscow.
Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths puts his hand on his head as he reacts to the sight of a mass grave Ukrainians dug near a church in Bucha, on April 7. Griffiths said investigators will probe civilian deaths uncovered after Russian troops withdrew. Evidence of civilian killings in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv - which Ukraine has blamed on Russian troops, allegations denied by Moscow - have shocked the world and triggered calls for new sanctions on Moscow.

The U.N. General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council on Thursday, approving a resolution that cited reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine.

The resolution needed a two-thirds majority of the vote in order to pass. The tally was 93 in favor and 24 against, with 58 abstentions.

Several countries spoke out against the resolution, such as China, Syria and Cuba, whose representatives said human rights were being politicized. Others abstained from the vote -- including South Africa, whose representative said it did so because of a lack of due process in determining Russia’s guilt.

Belarus' representative Valentyn Rybakov said his country is “categorically against” the resolution, saying it would demonize and isolate the Russian Federation.

The world is at a critical juncture and the Human Rights Council is in danger of foundering, Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said ahead of the vote in Thursday's emergency special session of the General Assembly.

Kyslytsya evoked the council's core goal of preventing genocide as he urged delegations to take the extraordinary step of suspending Russia from the council.

“We are in a unique situation now,” Kyslytsya said, when “a member of the Human Rights Council commits horrific human rights violations and abuses that could be equated to war crimes and crimes against humanity” in another country’s territory.

Saying that thousands of civilians in Bucha and other Ukrainian towns have been killed, tortured, raped and robbed by Russia’s military, Kyslytsya said the reasons for suspending Russia are “obvious and self-explanatory.”

Russia has repeatedly rejected claims that it has killed or harmed civilians, despite a mounting death toll and images showing Ukrainian residences destroyed by Russian attacks -- and video of Ukrainians lying dead in the streets in Bucha and elsewhere.

“We don’t target civilian facilities to save as many civilians as possible. That is why our advance is not that rapid as many expected,” Vasily Nebenzya, Russia's ambassador to the U.N., said at a Security Council session on Tuesday. "We are not acting like the Americans and their allies were acting in Iraq when they wiped out entire cities," he added.

Sanctions

Finnish customs seizes millions of dollars' worth of artwork headed to Russia

Posted April 7, 2022 at 11:48 AM EDT
A shipment of valuable art was seized at Finland's border with Russia, with customs officials citing sanctions stemming from the war in Ukraine.
Finnish Customs
A shipment of valuable art was seized at Finland's border with Russia, with customs officials citing sanctions stemming from the war in Ukraine.

Finland says customs officials have seized millions of dollars' worth of artwork, in shipments that were headed to Russia in violation of European sanctions.

Finnish customs agency Tulli said on Wednesday that its agents detained three shipments of paintings and sculptures over the weekend at Vaalimaa, a border crossing between Finland and Russia.

The works were being transported from museums in Italy and Japan, where they were on loan from Russia, officials said. Customs enforcement director Hannu Sinkkonen said at a press conference that the works have been valued at the equivalent of more than $46 million for insurance purposes, though some of them are "priceless."

"Professionals have been consulted in the moving and storage of the goods," Sinkkonen said. "We are not going to open the packages."

The Finnish customs agency says the works will stay in a warehouse for the time being, and are being stored based on considerations of their value, characteristics and safety. Images on its website show wooden boxes of various heights and sizes, marked "fragile" and bearing labels in Cyrillic.

The customs agency is also conducting an investigation along with Finland's foreign ministry — which it says will explore the matter with the European Commission. The investigation will involve information gathering, international cooperation and requests for mutual assistance, officials said.

The European Union sanctions unveiled against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine include a ban on the sale and transfer of artwork. Sami Rakshit, director of Finnish Customs’ Enforcement Department, said that pieces of art are considered luxury items, Reuters reports.

"The enforcement of sanctions is part of our normal operations and we always direct our controls based on risks," Rakshit said in a statement. "The shipments that have now come under criminal investigation were detected as part of our customary enforcement work."

Officials told reporters that 10 people are suspected of breaching sanctions by transporting the art.

Citing Russian news agency Moskva, Reuters reports that the works of art had been loaned to Italy from leading Russian galleries including The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, and that those loaned to Japan had come from Moscow's Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

News of the seizure comes just over two weeks after Finnish customs officials detained 21 yachts believed to be owned by Russian oligarchs and others under EU sanctions.

Just In
Politics

Bills suspending Russian trade relations and banning oil imports head to Biden's desk

Updated April 7, 2022 at 1:34 PM EDT
Posted April 7, 2022 at 11:10 AM EDT

The United States Congress is sending two bills meant to heap economic pain onto Russia to President Biden to sign into law, after members of both parties came together to show unified support for Ukraine.

The entire U.S. Senate on Thursday approved suspending trade relations with Russia and banning oil imports from the country. The votes on the two bills were each 100-0.

The House had already passed its versions of the legislation, which differed from the Senate’s, and so on Thursday afternoon passed revisions to reconcile the bills and send them to Biden.

Biden began working with Congress last month to remove Russia’s permanent normal trade relations status, adding another economic consequence for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Revoking the status means the U.S. can charge higher import duties on Russian goods. Only two other countries in the world — North Korea and Cuba — do not have normal trade relations with the U.S.

According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. imports from Russia were worth $22 billion in 2019 — which put the U.S. in a trade deficit, as it only exported $5.8 billion goods to Russia that year. For the first two months of this year, the United States ran a trade deficit with Russia of $3.64 billion, government data shows.

Biden has already banned oil and gas imports from Russia. Even though the U.S. counts on Russian oil for less than 10% of its imports, members of Congress have pushed to put the ban into law at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

International Dispatch
From Berlin

German intelligence says it intercepted Russian radio traffic of soldiers discussing killing civilians

Posted April 7, 2022 at 10:27 AM EDT
A soldier walks on a road littered with rubble and broken tanks.
Felipe Dana
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AP
A Ukrainian serviceman walks amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine on Wednesday.

Intelligence sources in Berlin say they have concrete evidence of Russian atrocities in Ukraine like those recently seen in Bucha, according to German media reports.

Weekly news magazine Der Spiegelreports the BND — Germany’s intelligence agency — says it has radio recordings of Russian soldiers discussing civilian killings. The BND is also said to have satellite images proving Russia was responsible for the slaughter of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, near the capital Kyiv.

According to unnamed security sources cited by Der Spiegel, it’s not clear whether the intercepted radio transmissions refer to war crimes in Bucha or elsewhere in Ukraine. The intelligence findings were reportedly presented to the Bundestag on Wednesday, but the German government has yet to comment.

Sports

Runners who live in Russia or Belarus are banned from this year's Boston Marathon

Posted April 7, 2022 at 9:45 AM EDT
Athletes run down an empty city street lined by green trees and brown buildings.
Maddie Malhotra
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Getty Images
Runners near the finish line on Boylston Street during the 125th Boston Marathon on October 11, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus who live in those countries won't be allowed to participate in this year's Boston Marathon, organizers announced on Wednesday — less than two weeks before the event is set to take place.

The Boston Athletic Association said that Russians and Belarusians who live elsewhere will be able to run — but not under their countries' flags. The decision applies to athletes who were accepted into either the marathon or 5k run, as part of the open registration process.

“Like so many around the world, we are horrified and outraged by what we have seen and learned from the reporting in Ukraine,” said Tom Grilk, B.A.A. president & CEO. “We believe that running is a global sport, and as such, we must do what we can to show our support to the people of Ukraine.”

The B.A.A. joins many organizations around the world — including the International Olympic Committee, FIFA and the International Chess Federation — in seeking distance from Russia and its ally Belarus after Russian troops invaded Ukraine in late February.

The Boston Marathon, set for April 18, bills itself as the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's six most prestigious marathons. The event routinely draws runners and spectators from around the world — 35 Russians and 12 Ukrainians entered last year's race.

Runners must qualify for the race by meeting standards for their age and gender (the current marathon mark for men between the ages of 18 and 34, for example, is three hours flat). The marathon weekend will kick off on April 16 with a separate, scenic 5k through Boston's Back Bay.

The B.A.A. says neither of the events — nor the B.A.A. Invitation Miles — include any professional or invited athletes from Russia or Belarus, and it's pledging not to recognize the countries' affiliations or flags "until further notice."

"The B.A.A. will make reasonable attempts to refund the athletes from Russia or Belarus who will no longer be able to participate, within the constraints as imposed by federal and international sanctions," it said.

For any Ukrainian runners who are registered but unable to compete, organizers will provide them with either a refund or the option to defer for a coming year.

The 126th Boston Marathon is the first to take place both in person and in April since 2019, after being canceled in 2020 and delayed to October last year.

Diplomacy

As U.S. and European allies meet in Brussels, Ukraine pushes for more military aid

Posted April 7, 2022 at 8:15 AM EDT
Two men in suits grin while holding each others' arms, as other smiling men and women look on.
Olivier Matthys
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AP
U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, center left, speaks with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, center right, at the North Atlantic Council roundtable during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with European officials in Brussels to discuss consequences for Russia over its alleged war crimes and giving Ukraine more support.

And Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday that his agenda in speaking to NATO foreign ministers
only has "three items on it: it's weapons, weapons and weapons."

The U.S. and Europe want to fulfill that request, NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen tellsMorning Edition from Brussels.

The U.S. is stepping up military aid for Ukraine and economic sanctions against Russia in the wake of widespread reports of atrocities in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

It recently announced another $100 million worth of Javelin anti-tank missiles, bringing the U.S. total to $1.7 billion in security assistance since the war began. But Kuleba and other Ukrainians say more equipment — like missiles and air defense systems — is needed to prevent another Bucha from happening.

And while the U.S. just released another round of economic sanctions targeting Russia's largest banks and President Vladimir Putin's children, among others, Kuleba notes that it took shocking scenes of civilian deaths to prompt world leaders to introduce new sanctions. He would like to see more Russian banks removed from the SWIFT financial messaging system, and a full oil and gas embargo on Russia (Europe still relies heavily on Russian energy and weaning off it will take time — though some officials say they're moving in that direction).

The U.S. says the sanctions and aid are meant to strengthen Ukraine's position as it bargains with Russia for a potential peace deal. Before Bucha, Ukrainians put forward some ideas in negotiations, like giving up NATO ambitions in exchange for security guarantees. Kelemen says the U.S. has been talking to Ukraine about that — but both the U.S. and NATO warn that the war will likely drag on, especially as Russian troops leaving Kyiv reinforce positions in the eastern part of Ukraine.

Read more here.

International Dispatch
On the ground

In the small town of Borodyanka, casualties could number in the hundreds

Posted April 7, 2022 at 8:15 AM EDT
An aerial view of a destroyed apartment building, with a burnt exterior and rubble on the ground.
Nicolas Garcia
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AFP via Getty Images
An aerial view of a destroyed residential building in the town of Borodianka, northwest of Kyiv, on Wednesday.

Officials in the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka are still combing through wreckage after Russian troops withdrew last week.

In the small town about 35 miles northwest of the capital of Kyiv, building after building was badly damaged in Russian airstrikes. Only in the last few days have residents been able to return, to check up on their homes.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, says hundreds of people are still reported missing.

Russian forces were non-stop shelling this town, and many homes were destroyed, he says — and there are people still under the wreckage who died there because they couldn't get out. Officials say casualties could be in the hundreds.

Listen to the full story here.

Family matters

Putin's daughters were just sanctioned. Here's what we know about them

Posted April 7, 2022 at 8:15 AM EDT
A vide of a blonde woman speaking is shown on two screens under a large ceiling.
Andrey Rudakov
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Bloomberg via Getty Images
Vladimir Putin's daughter Katerina Tikhonova speaks via video link during a panel session last year at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum – Russia's version of Davos.

The U.S. has announced additional sanctions against Russia, following alleged atrocities committed by Russian troops in Ukraine. Among those on the latest list of sanctions are two adult daughters of President Vladimir Putin.

"We believe that many of Putin's assets are hidden with family members and that's why we're targeting them," a senior Biden administration official said in a call with reporters on Wednesday.

Putin has refused to publicly acknowledge the names of his children, but the Treasury Departmentidentified the daughters being sanctioned as Maria Vladimirovna Vorontsova and Katerina Vladimirovna Tikhonova. One is a pediatric endocrinologist, the other a former competitive dancer turned tech executive.

Putin is intensely private when it comes to his family, and many details about his children have been scarce and shrouded in secrecy.

Here's what we do know.

From Kyiv

Ukrainian government warns residents of eastern cities to get out while they can

Posted April 7, 2022 at 8:14 AM EDT
Women stand outside a blue bus, with one crouching down to pet a dog standing on its hind legs.
Wojtek Radwanski
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AFP via Getty Images
Vica and her mother Marina from Kharkov are seen with their dog Tusia as they and other refugees from Ukraine line up to get the bus taking them to Barcelona, Spain on the bus station in Przemysl, south-eastern Poland, on Monday.

The Ukrainian government says residents of the regions of Donestsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv should evacuate immediately.

Russian troops have been pushed out of the capital region, the government adds, but it believes those forces are regrouping and will soon launch an attack in the east of the country.

Their worry is that once those attacks begin in earnest, civilians could have no way out. Indeed, in some cities north of the capital Kyiv, rescue workers fear many civilians are either trapped or dead in bomb shelters.

Local news outlets have also reported that the fighting in the east has escalated overnight. They report villages have been hit by rockets, destroying homes and farm buildings. NPR has so far been unable to verify those reports.