April 4, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Travis Caldwell, Helen Regan, Ben Church, Jason Kurtz and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 2:01 a.m. ET, April 5, 2022
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11:17 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Calls for war crime charges against Putin are mounting. Here's how the prosecutions work

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Shocking atrocities in Ukraine, allegedly at the hands of Russian forces, have amplified calls to pursue war crimes charges against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Images of at least 20 bodies strewn across the street in Bucha, Ukraine, emerged over the weekend following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the area, prompting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to call for an end to Russian "war crimes." Russia's bombing of hospitals and a theater where children were seeking refuge along with its suspected use of cluster bombs and so-called vacuum bombs in dense areas with many civilians have also been described as war crimes.

Here's a very broad look at war crimes and the international justice movement.

What is a war crime?

The International Criminal Court has specific definitions for war crimes, which you can read in this guide published by the ICC. Specifically, targeting civilian populations, violating the Geneva Conventions, targeting specific groups of people and more could be potential Russian war crimes.

There is a method of gathering evidence from testimony, satellite images and elsewhere to meet a burden of proof.

What is the International Criminal Court?

Located in The Hague, Netherlands, and created by a treaty called the Rome Statute first brought before the United Nations, the International Criminal Court operates independently. Most countries are parties to the treaty, but there are very large and notable exceptions, including Russia and the US. And, for that matter, Ukraine.

Who can be tried by the court?

The court tries people, not countries, and focuses on those who hold the most responsibility: leaders and officials. While Ukraine is not a member of the court, it has previously accepted its jurisdiction. Putin could, therefore, theoretically be indicted by the court for previously ordering war crimes in Crimea.

However, the ICC does not conduct trials in absentia, so he would either have to be handed over by Russia or arrested outside of Russia. That seems unlikely.

How does the ICC bring proceedings?

Court proceedings can be brought in one of two ways: Either a national government or the UN Security Council can refer cases for investigation.

Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has veto power over council actions. It was requests by 39 national governments, most of them European, that sparked this current investigation.

How long do these investigations take?

If justice in general moves slowly, international justice barely moves at all. Investigations at the ICC take many years. Only a handful of convictions have ever been won.

How would an ICC case affect the conflict?

"For better or for worse, the ICC investigation may affect the diplomatic space for negotiations," according to Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University and co-editor-in-chief of Just Security, an online forum.

He argued Putin and other Russians might not want to risk arrest if they travel outside the country.

The investigation could also weaken Putin at home, he added. "Russians may come to realize this is another reason Putin can no longer serve their country."

10:46 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Ukraine's Human Rights commissioner says Russia's treatment of prisoners of war violates Geneva Conventions

From CNN’s Alex Hardie in London

Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova holds a briefing on November 4, 2020 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova holds a briefing on November 4, 2020 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Hennadii Minchenko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

Ukraine's Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova said Monday that Russia’s treatment of prisoners of war violates the Geneva Conventions.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Denisova said that released Ukrainian soldiers have “told of the inhumane treatment of them by the Russian side: they were kept in a field, in a pit, in a garage. Periodically, one was taken out: beaten with rifle butts, shots fired next to their ear, intimidated.”

“The prisoners of war were taken away in an unknown direction and housed in a tent camp in temperatures of -20 degrees, as a result of which many boys had frostbite. They were treated like convicts, morally oppressed, and a dog was set on them while they were walking in the yard,” Denisova continued.

She added that some had been “starved for several days.”

Article 13 of the Geneva Convention on POWs states that "prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated." 

Denisova called on “the UN Commission for Investigation Human Rights Violations of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine and the expert mission set up by the OSCE participating States under the Moscow Mechanism to take into account these violations of the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war.”

9:50 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Zelensky says Ukraine wants to "show the world" what happened in Bucha

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stands in the town of Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, on April 4.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stands in the town of Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, on April 4. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine wants to "show the world" what happened in Bucha, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, vowing that the country will "not pause" until it finds those accountable. 

Speaking from Bucha to reporters on Monday, Zelensky said it is "very important to us that the press is here" in the town. 

"We want you to show the world what happened here. What the Russian military did. What the Russian Federation did in peaceful Ukraine. It was important for you to see that these were civilians," the president added. 

Shocking images of civilian bodies found strewn across a street in Bucha have sparked international outrage. The Kremlin questioned the reports regarding Bucha on Monday, rejecting all accusations of Russian military involvement.

The European Union on Monday announced it has established a joint investigation team with Ukraine to probe alleged Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Zelensky told reporters Monday that the present situation a "matter of life and death and torture," stressing Ukraine's commitment for finding those responsible for the atrocities. 

"We are going to put maximum pressure. We shall not pause for one minute to find all the criminals and I think this will benefit civilization," Zelensky continued. 

He warned that "if we don't find a civilized solution," the Ukrainian people "will find a non-civilized solution" to deal with matters.

9:50 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

Ukrainian President Zelensky visits Bucha

President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, walks in the town of Bucha, Ukraine, on April 4.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, walks in the town of Bucha, Ukraine, on April 4. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has visited Bucha, agency video shows, after images of civilian bodies found strewn across a street sparked international outrage.

He addressed the cameras around him briefly, saying that it was "very difficult" for Ukraine to negotiate with Russia following the atrocities carried out by Russian forces in Bucha. Zelensky said the atrocities carried out in the town typify "the nature of the Russian military" and added that they "treat people worse than animals."

"It's very difficult to negotiate when you see what they have done here," the president emphasized as he stood in the town, surrounded by security.

He warned that "the longer the Russian Federation delays" talks with Ukraine the worse the situation becomes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, accompanied by Ukrainian soldiers, speaks to the press during his visit to the town of Bucha, Ukraine, on April 4.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, accompanied by Ukrainian soldiers, speaks to the press during his visit to the town of Bucha, Ukraine, on April 4. (Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Wearing a flak jacket and surrounded by security, he talked about “key leaders of leading countries who made the decisions whether Ukraine should be a NATO member.”

“I think they should come here and see how these games, how this flirting with the Russian federation ends,” he said.

9:20 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

EU and Ukraine will jointly investigate alleged Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity

From James Frater in Brussels and Amy Cassidy in London

The European Union on Monday announced it has established a joint investigation team with Ukraine to probe alleged Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity after shocking images emerged from the town of Bucha in the aftermath of Russian forces withdrawing from the area. 

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen offered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky her condolences on the “dreadful murders” that were revealed over the weekend in what she described as “harrowing mages” in a news release. 

“The EU is ready to reinforce this effort by sending investigation teams on the ground to support the Ukrainian Prosecution Services. Eurojust and Europol are ready to assist,” she said.

“A global response is necessary. There are ongoing talks between Eurojust and the International Criminal Court to join forces and for the Court to be part of the Joint Investigation Team. Such a coordinated approach from the Ukrainian authorities, the EU, its Member States and agencies, and the International Criminal Court will allow for the evidence to be collected, analysed and processed in the most complete and effective way possible.

“I have tasked Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders to follow-up and take contact with the Ukrainian Prosecutor General.

“The Commission will provide all the necessary technical and financial support to all EU-led investigations," she said.

9:21 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

This Ukrainian man sheltered in the basement of his Bucha home for two weeks

Ukrainian man Dmytro Lisovyy was sheltering in the basement of his Bucha home for two weeks as the Russians attacked "every day and every night" nearby.

Russian troops were "present on the streets. Maybe from the fourth or fifth day, they decided to check all houses. They came to our house. They destroyed all of the electronic devices inside our house, including laptops, including TV and so on," Lisovyy told CNN.

As the troops tried to find smartphones, Lisovyy said his family hid their current phones and gave up their old ones.

"As a result, we have some connection with the world. We understand what is going on and what could be time for evacuation," he said.

Lisovvy also spoke of the horror of living through this time.

"It was horrible to understand that every minute that something could fly into your house. Also, just could come and kill someone or destroy some of your things," he said.

Eventually, he and his family decided to take the risk and use an evacuation route to escape.

The territory was "all controlled by Russian troops. There were many civilian cars destroyed by Russians during our evacuation. We saw it. They were shooting. It was civilian cars — not some other troops or something," he said speaking of the risk his family took to escape.

They are now safe and Lisovyy spoke to CNN from Kyiv. However, many of his friends still remain in Bucha.

"My friends, unfortunately, [are] still in this area without any connection for a long time. No one knows if they survived or if they are OK," he said.

Watch the full interview here:

9:21 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

US will call for Russia to be suspended from UN Human Rights Council

From CNN's Mike Callahan

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to the media after the conclusion of the Eleventh Emergency Special Session of General Assembly at the UN Headquarters, New York City, on March 24.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to the media after the conclusion of the Eleventh Emergency Special Session of General Assembly at the UN Headquarters, New York City, on March 24. (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocke/Getty Images)

The US will ask the United Nations to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Monday their participation is "a farce."

According to a tweet by US mission spokesperson Thomas-Greenfield, “in close coordination with Ukraine, European countries and other partners at the UN, we are going to seek Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council.”

“I am returning to New York to do two things. One: I will take this to the Security Council tomorrow morning and address Russia’s actions directly," she wrote.

“Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce. It hurts the credibility of the Council and the UN writ large. And it is wrong, which is why we believe it is time the UN General Assembly vote to suspend them,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
9:36 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

It's 4 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for an end to Russian war crimes, as the ongoing retreat of Russian forces around Kyiv reveals alleged atrocities.

In Bucha, northwest of the capital, images show civilian bodies found strewn across a street, and CNN reporters observed a mass grave in the town, with the mayor saying there could be hundreds of victims buried on site.

Bucha: Shocking images from the town recently liberated from Russian forces have sparked international outrage. The Kremlin questioned the reports regarding Bucha on Monday, rejecting all accusations of Russian military involvement. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the killings while Zelensky described it as “genocide.”  

Global condemnation: Greece joined a host of countries in denouncing the atrocities in Bucha. In a statement posted online on Sunday, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs described scenes in Bucha as “horrific crimes” and called for those responsible to be held accountable. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also called for an "independent commission" to investigate Russian war crimes in Ukraine as world leaders continue to condemn the massacre. 

Russia sanctions: French President Emmanuel Macron said he wants to see a total block on Russian exports of coal and oil to the European Union “this week," following the discovery of what he described as “very clear signs” of war crimes in Bucha. He said that he would have discussions with his European partners this week regarding further sanctions on Russia. It comes as UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will call for tougher sanctions against Russia, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) said Monday.

Luhansk region: Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration in eastern Ukraine, said Monday that the Russian military had been gathering a "significant accumulation of troops and military equipment" in the region, in apparent preparation for an offensive push. The Russian military has said it is pulling back its forces from around Kyiv and the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv to concentrate efforts in the Donbas region of Ukraine's east.

8:53 a.m. ET, April 4, 2022

United Arab Emirates sends more than 30 tons of food and medical relief supplies to Ukraine

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi

The United Arab Emirates sent a plane carrying more than 30 tons of medical and relief supplies to Ukraine, the state news agency WAM said on Sunday. 

This is the third plane sent by the UAE to Ukraine, in response to the international humanitarian appeal to support Ukrainians and those displaced in Ukraine, WAM said.

The UAE, along with several other Arab countries, have not publicly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but chose to vote in favor of last month’s UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russian aggression.

Anwar Gargash, adviser to the UAE president, said last month that taking sides "would only lead to more violence." The UAE's priority is "to encourage all parties to resort to diplomatic action and to negotiate to find a political solution," he said.

"The UAE is keen to provide the necessary relief requirements in situations of conflict for civilians, especially women and children, in the current circumstances and resulting aggravated situation, particularly for Ukrainian refugees in neighboring countries," said Salem Ahmed Al Kaabi, the Emirati Ambassador to Ukraine.

The International Humanitarian City in Dubai, in cooperation with international organizations in the city, had previously operated two other planes carrying 124 metric tonnes (136 tons), including relief supplies and shelter equipment, WAM said.

The Gulf country had also pledged $5 million in humanitarian assistance.

In a phone call last week, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed spoke to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky about the “importance of finding peaceful solutions through negotiation, dialogue to ensure ending the crisis,” WAM said.