Washington DC April 6 2022: The United States and its allies were set on Wednesday to impose new sanctions on Moscow over civilian killings in northern Ukraine, which President Volodymyr Zelenskiy described as "war crimes" demanding commensurate punishment.
Western sanctions on Russia over its nearly six-week invasion of its neighbour gained new impetus this week after dead civilians shot at close range were discovered in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, seized back from Russian forces.
Russia denied targeting civilians in Bucha and described evidence presented as a "monstrous forgery" staged by the West to discredit it.
New sanctions set to be unveiled Wednesday are in part a response to Bucha, the White House said.
The measures, coordinated between Washington, Group of Seven advanced economies and the European Union, will target Russian banks and officials and ban new investment in Russia, the White House said.
Proposed EU sanctions, which the bloc's 27 member states must approve, would ban buying Russian coal and prevent Russian ships from entering EU ports.
EU executive Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc was working on banning oil imports, as well. Europe, which obtains about a third of its natural gas from Russia, has been wary of the economic impact a total ban on Russian energy would bring.
But signalling strengthening EU resolve, Germany's foreign minister said the coal ban was the first step toward an embargo on all Russian fossil fuel imports. Ukraine says banning Russian gas is vital to securing a deal to end the war in peace talks.
In an early morning address, Zelenskiy said new sanctions "against Russia must be commensurate with the gravity of the occupiers' war crimes," calling it a "crucial moment" for Western leaders.
He added: "If after that Russian banks function as usual, if after that the transit of goods to Russia continues as usual, if after that EU countries pay Russia for energy as usual, then the political fate of some leaders will not develop as usual."
Since launching its invasion on Feb. 24, Russia has failed to capture a single major city in what it calls a "special military operation" aimed at demilitarizing and "denazifying" Ukraine.
The Kremlin's position is rejected by Ukraine, a parliamentary democracy, and the West as a pretext for an unprovoked invasion that has uprooted a quarter of the country's population.
Russia's forces mostly withdrew from near Kyiv last week after getting bogged down by Ukrainian resistance. They have shifted their offensive towards Ukraine's south and east.
In the besieged southern port of Mariupol, where tens of thousands are trapped with scant access to food or water, a Dominica-flagged cargo ship sank on Tuesday after being targeted by Russian missile strikes, the vessel's flag registry said.
Ukrainian officials say between 150 and 300 bodies might be in a mass grave by a church in Bucha, north of the capital Kyiv.
Satellite images taken weeks ago show bodies of civilians on a street in the town, a private U.S. company said, undercutting Russia's claims that Ukrainian forces caused the deaths or that the scene was staged.