European leaders call for more Russia sanctions after Bucha 'massacre'
European leaders have called for further measures against Russia, with Germany saying on Sunday that the West would agree to impose more sanctions in the coming days after Ukraine accused Russian forces of war crimes near Kyiv, ratcheting up the already vast economic pressure on Moscow over its invasion.
Russia's economy is facing the gravest crisis since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union after the United States and its allies imposed crippling sanctions due to Putin's brutal 24 February invasion of Ukraine.
Russia on Sunday denied its forces were responsible for what Ukraine alleged was a "massacre" of civilians in the town of Bucha and said Ukraine had staged a performance for the Western media.
Reuters saw corpses strewn across the town. One appeared to have his hands bound with white cloth, and to have been shot in the mouth. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of carrying out a genocide.
The West warned of more sanctions.
"Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences" of their actions, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement to reporters.
German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said the European Union should talk about ending Russian gas imports.
Germany, Europe's largest economy, has so far resisted calls to impose an embargo on energy imports from Russia, saying its economy and that of other European countries are too dependent on them. Russia supplies 40 percent of Europe's gas needs.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "despicable attacks against civilians" in Bucha and Irpin near Kyiv were evidence that Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine, and that Britain would step up sanctions and military aid in response.
"I will do everything in my power to starve [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's war machine," Johnson said in a statement on Sunday.
"We are stepping up our sanctions and military support, as well as bolstering our humanitarian support package to help those in need on the ground."
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that a new round of sanctions targeting Russia were needed and that there were clear indications Russian forces were responsible for the killings of civilians in Bucha.
"There are very clear clues pointing to war crimes. It is more or less established that the Russian army is responsible [for the Bucha killings]," Macron told France Inter radio.
"What happened in Bucha demands a new round of sanctions and very clear measures," Macron added.
Those new sanctions should target coal and oil, said Macron who faces a re-election battle this month.
Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said the events in Bucha were "unleashing a wave of indignation that will lead to new sanctions" and did not exclude "that in the next few hours there could be a debate on the issue of imports of hydrocarbons from Russia", he told a programme on Italy's Rai 3 channel, adding Italy would not veto a fifth package of sanctions.
The United States said that those responsible for any war crimes must be held responsible.
The Kremlin says the West's sanctions - the most burdensome in modern history - amount to a declaration of economic war and that Moscow will now look eastwards to partners such as China and India.
Largely cut off from the West's economies, Russia is facing the biggest economic contraction for decades while prices are rising. Putin said that the West understands nothing about Russia if it thinks Russians will give in to sanctions.
Bucha was one of the loveliest and richest suburbs of Kyiv. Everyone wanted to live there, among pine trees, next to a gorgeous park. Its location just 20 km from Kyiv was perfect for those working in the capital. Bucha will be rebuilt, but it never be a carefree resort anymore pic.twitter.com/EwguiSqAOZ— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) April 3, 2022
Still, cutting off Russian gas - or more of Russia's natural resources - would wipe out growth in Europe's biggest economies, send energy prices to records and propel an inflationary shockwave through the global economy.
Russia, which has supplied gas to Europe since the 1970s, would be deprived of hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign currency earnings. It would likely toughen its response to the "economic war" of the West.
"The world is much bigger than Europe - and in fact Russia is much bigger than Europe - so sooner or later we will have a dialogue no matter what people across the ocean want," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Channel One state television.
Ukraine called for a full oil, gas and coal embargo, a ban on Russian vessels and cargos and the disconnection of all Russian banks from SWIFT.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands of people and displaced millions.
Putin claims what Russia calls the "special military operation" in Ukraine is necessary because the United States was using Ukraine to threaten Russia and Moscow had to defend against the persecution of Russian-speaking people by Ukraine.
Ukraine says Moscow launched a war of aggression and that Putin's claims of persecution are nonsense.