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EU says it holds Russia responsible for atrocities in Ukraine

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The European Union condemned Russia for atrocities by its military in several Ukrainian towns, saying that the bloc will work “as a matter of urgency” on additional sanctions against Moscow, according to Bloomberg.

“The Russian authorities are responsible for these atrocities, committed while they had effective control of the area,” the bloc said Monday in a joint statement, adding that Brussels will assist Ukraine in collecting and preserving evidence of war crimes. “They are subject to the international law of occupation.”

Some EU governments are pushing for the bloc to quickly impose new sanctions in response to multiple reports that Russian troops executed unarmed civilians in northern Ukraine. 

The European Commission was already working on steps to tighten existing measures, including fully sanctioning banks already cut off from the SWIFT global payments system – and expanding the list of sanctioned individuals. But several countries, including Germany, have up to now blocked more significant steps, such as embargoing Russian oil. 

“The EU will continue to firmly support Ukraine and will advance, as a matter of urgency, work on further sanctions against Russia,” the bloc said.

Some governments say the reported atrocities in places like Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, are enough to warrant tough new sanctions. But others have argued that measures like cutting off Russian oil or banning Russian ships from European ports should only be explored if Russia were to use chemical weapons or capture a major city, three diplomats said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private. 

Ukraine has accused Russian soldiers of killing unarmed civilians, with officials saying they found hundreds of bodies in Bucha after Russian troops left. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, posted several photos on Twitter of dead people, some with their hands tied behind their backs. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the claims of war crimes as staged.