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U.S., allies set to impose more sanctions on Russia following outrage over possible war crimes

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow, Russia February 18, 2022.
Sergey Guneev | Kremlin | Sputnik | via Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Wednesday is set to announce additional sanctions targeting Russian financial institutions, as well as Kremlin officials and their family members, three people familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

The fresh sanctions package, taken in lockstep with European Union allies and Group of 7 members, will also ban new investment in Russia and state-owned enterprises.

The new measures follow rounds of coordinated sanctions that have vaulted Russia past Iran and North Korea as the world’s most-sanctioned country. The measures have damaged the Russian economy as Moscow pushes ahead with the brutal invasion of its neighbor.

The sweeping measures follow global outrage over mounting evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine. Over the weekend, Ukrainian officials claimed that hundreds of civilians were tortured and killed in Bucha by Russian troops.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the aftermath in the suburban town near Kyiv, which he saw firsthand on Monday, as a “genocide.” He accused Russia of war crimes.

In a dramatic appearance at the United Nations on Tuesday, Zelenskyy called for a Nuremberg-style tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russian war crimes.

“The massacre in our city of Bucha is only one, unfortunately, only one of many examples of what the occupiers have been doing on our land for the past 41 days,” Zelenskyy said in a nearly 20-minute speech, adding that “the world has yet to see” what Russia has done elsewhere in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appears on a screen as he addresses members of Spanish parliament via video link, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Madrid, Spain, April 5, 2022.
Juan Medina | Reuters

The U.S. and European allies have previously accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine, citing evidence that the country purposely targeted civilian sites. Russia has described its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” and has denied that it targets civilians.

Since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24, more than 1,400 people have died, including 61 children, according to the United Nations. The international body added that the death tolls in Ukraine are likely higher, as the armed conflict has delayed reports.

UN humanitarian aid chief Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that Russia’s war has caused more than a quarter of Ukraine’s population to flee the country.

“The current figures on displacement tell us that more than 11.3 million people have now been forced to flee their homes and of that 4.2 million are now refugees,” Griffiths said.

Children who fled the war in Ukraine rests inside a temporary refugee shelter that was an abandoned TESCO supermarket after being transported from the Polish Ukrainian border on March 08, 2022 in Przemysl, Poland.
Omar Marques | Getty Images

On Monday, President Joe Biden called Russian leader Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and said he should be put on trial for ordering the violence in Ukraine.

“This guy is brutal, and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone’s seen it,” Biden told reporters. He added, “I think it is a war crime … He should be held accountable.”

Biden’s national security advisor echoed similar sentiments and said that the State Department would help with the UN’s investigation into possible war crimes.

Before traveling to Belgium ahead of NATO and G-7 meetings, Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the reports of Russian war crimes in Ukraine as “more than credible.”

“What we’ve seen in Bucha is not the random act of a rogue unit. It’s a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities,” Blinken told reporters traveling with him. “The reports are more than credible. The evidence is there for the world to see.”

Earlier on Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that the alliance is committed to supporting the U.N.’s International Criminal Court investigation.

“Targeting and murdering civilians is a war crime. All the facts must be established and all those responsible for these atrocities must be brought to justice,” Stoltenberg said, adding that the alliance had reliable evidence of war crimes committed in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities.

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