Ukraine News: U.S. Sanctions Largest Global Darknet Market

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Today marks the 41st day of Russia's war in Ukraine.

Destruction in Bucha
A man walks past a destroyed Russian armored personnel carrier on April 4, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has accused Russian forces of committing a "deliberate massacre" as they occupied and eventually retreated from Bucha, 25km northwest of Kyiv. Dozens of bodies have been found in the days since Ukrainian forces regained control of the town. Alexey Furman/Getty Images

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U.S. Sanctions Largest Global Darknet Market

The United States announced new sanctions on the world's largest darknet market for Russian speakers, Hydra, and the virtual currency exchange, Garantex, on Tuesday.

The sanctions on Hydra aim to "disrupt proliferation of malicious cybercrime services, dangerous drugs, and other illegal offerings available through the Russia-based site," the U.S. Department of the Treasury said.

The sanctions address the abuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments. Tuesday's action was made in coordination with Germany, who also shut down Hydra servers in its country today. The Treasury Department called Russia a "haven for cybercriminals."

"The global threat of cybercrime and ransomware that originates in Russia, and the ability of criminal leaders to operate there with impunity, is deeply concerning to the United States," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

"Our actions send a message today to criminals that you cannot hide on the darknet or their forums, and you cannot hide in Russia or anywhere else in the world," she said. "In coordination with allies and partners, like Germany and Estonia, we will continue to disrupt these networks."

"Today's action – coordinated with our allies and partners – disrupts ransomware infrastructure and actors and targets the abuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

New Sanctions Will Force Russia to 'Make a Choice,' Psaki Says

While the White House shares Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's frustration over Russia's membership to the U.N. Security Council, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. doesn't see that changing any time soon.

Psaki said the U.S. will still work on accountability measures, as President Biden believes Russia is guilty of war crimes in Ukraine. She said the U.S. is working on mechanisms outside of the United Nations through other international bodies of which Russia may not be a part.

During the daily press briefing, Psaki previewed the new package of sanctions that the U.S. and the European Union will issue against Russia tomorrow.

The new measures will target Russian governmental officials and their families, as well as Russian financial institutions and state-owned enterprises. Psaki said these new sanctions will impose further economic costs on Russia and push the Kremlin into further isolation.

Between the U.S. and the E.U., Psaki said 50 percent of the world's economy will present a "significant entity" to hold Russia accountable. She said the U.S. expects other countries will abide by the sanctions and be a "constructive part of holding Russia accountable."

The goals of sanctions is to force Russia to make a choice, Psaki said.
Russia is low on resources and will to be forced to choose between "draining remaining valuable dollar reserves or new revenues coming in or default," she said. The main objective is to deplete Russia resources to make it harder for Putin to continue his war in Ukraine.

"The financial system in Russia is near the brink of collapse," Psaki said. "It is more and more difficult for President Putin to fund this war, every single day. That has an impact."

Psaki also reiterated that the U.S. is not calling for a regime change in Russia. Biden maintains that Putin is a war criminal and the U.S. will continue to support international investigations to hold him accountable.

She said Russian forces have "unfortunately" committed the atrocities that the U.S. predicted they would carry out.

But "we've only seen potentially the tip of the iceberg" of atrocities in Ukraine because we do not have access to other parts of the country where Russian force may have carried out war crimes, Psaki said.

Despite the horrors that the world has witnessed in Bucha, Psaki maintained that the U.S. will not send troops on the ground in Ukraine because a war with Russia is not in the best interest of the U.S. or the American people.

Johnson Tells Russians They 'Deserve the Truth'

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shared a message to the Russian people Tuesday, saying they "deserve the truth" about what's happening in Ukraine.

Johnson began the one minute and forty second video message in Russian and explained the horror unfolding for now the 41st day across Ukraine.

"The atrocities committed by Russian troops in Bucha, Irpin and elsewhere in Ukraine have horrified the world," Johnson began. "Civilians massacred, shot dead with their hands tied. Women raped in front of their young children. Bodies crudely burned, dumped in mass graves, or just left lying in the street."

"The reports are so shocking, so sickening, it's no wonder your government is seeking to hide them from you," he continued. "Your president [Putin] knows that if you could see what was happening, you would not support his war."

He told encouraged Russian residents to access and share independent information using a VPN connection. Johnson said those responsible will be held accountable and "history will remember who looked the other way."

"Your president stands accused of committing war crimes," he concluded in Russian. "But I cannot believe he's acting in your name."

Ukraine Shares New Reports of Russian Losses

Ukraine shared its latest report on the losses of the Russian armed forces during the war in Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Russians have lost about 18,500 personnel, 1,858 armored personnel vehicles, 686 tanks and 134 helicopters, as of April 5.

France Opens Three Probes into War Crimes

French prosecutors have opened three probes into possible war crimes committed by Russian troops against French nationals in Ukraine.

The national prosecutor's office made the announcement Tuesday. The probes will focus on suspected crimes in Mariupol, Chernihiv and Hostomel, the Associated Press reports.

Prosecutors have not yet identified suspects. The crimes may include targeting civilians, withholding essentials, assaults and destroying civilian infrastructure, AP said.

Under French law, prosecutors can investigate suspected war crimes that occurred outside of the country, if either party involved is French or a resident of France.

NATO Chief Says Russia is Responsible for Bucha Killings

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the atrocities in Ukraine and outlined the goals of the upcoming meetings with foreign ministers.

"We have all seen the horrific images of murdered civilians in Bucha and other places," he said, adding that these atrocities have taken place during a period in which Russia controlled these areas, "so they are responsible."

He said the murdering of civilians is a war crime and called for all those responsible to be brought to justice.

He said NATO has seen information from "many different sources" that are "telling the same story of the brutal atrocities committed" across Ukraine.

He added that the world will see more examples of civilian killings which "highlights the importance of a thorough investigation," to which NATO is providing support, "to make sure that all those responsible for these atrocities are held accountable."

"I think we haven't seen everything that has taken place because Russia still controls most of these territories," he said. "But when and if they withdraw the troops and Ukraine's troops take over, I'm afraid they will see more mass graves, more atrocities, and more examples of war crimes."

Stoltenberg echoed Pentagon intelligence that Russian forces are moving away from Kyiv to resupply before being redeployed to the east.

He said we have entered a "crucial phase of the war."

"In the coming weeks, we expect a further Russian push in eastern and southern Ukraine to try to take entire Donbas and create a land bridge to occupied Crimea," he said.

Allies are determined to provide further support to Ukraine, he said, including anti-tank weapons, air-defense systems, increased humanitarian assistance and financial aid and cybersecurity assistance.

"I think now after the invasion of Ukraine, we need a discussion in NATO, on how to support and help all the countries in more or less the same situation as Ukraine," he said, adding that a lesson learned from Ukraine is that "it's better to provide support sooner than later."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will join the summit of NATO leaders Thursday, along with Finland, Sweden, Georgia, the European Union and NATO's Asia-Pacific partners: Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

Stoltenberg added that it is up to Finland and Sweden to decide whether they want to join NATO.

"NATO will respect the decision they take regardless so whether they decide to try to join or not to join we because we respect decisions by sovereign and independent nations," he said.

Ukraine Ambassador Asks Russia When it Started 'Enjoying Acting Like Nazis'

Ukraine's ambassador to the U.N. called out Russia's hypocrisy after the Russian delegation continued to dismiss accusations that its forces are responsible for the killing of civilians in Ukraine.

During the U.N. Security Council meeting, Russia's U.N. ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said Ukraine's "mop-up" operation in Bucha by police and armed forces are responsible for atrocities and condemned the West for its "presumption of guilt" in blaming the Russian army.

He said Ukraine will present more "staged video" to fuel "anti-Russia hysteria" and further "horrible provocations" in an attempt to discredit Russian soldiers are "murderers."

Ukraine's ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said the Council has become "accustomed to the lies constantly spewed in this chamber."

He called out Russia for admitting its army killed civilians during this "war," not a "special military operation," during a press conference ahead of the Security Council meeting.

"I'm appalled at your cynical and outright lie that you don't hit civilian targets and that's why you are moving so slowly," Kyslytsya said. "You do hit civilians."

He said the only truth the Russian representative said was that Russian forces are "not moving as planned" in Ukraine that is because of the resistance of the Ukrainian people, Kyslytsya said, "not your smart military planning."

"Ukraine will win in this territory, and the entire world will win despite the threats that a criminal and a liar throws," he said.

Kyslytsya then asked Russia when it started "enjoying acting like Nazis."

"When have you started enjoying acting like Nazis, killing civilians, attempting to redraw internationally recognized borders, setting the task to finally resolve 'the Ukrainian issue' like Hitler attempted to resolve the Jewish issue," he asked.

At Least 1,480 Civilian Deaths, Including 165 Children

At least 165 children have died amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office said Tuesday.

Data from juvenile prosecutors shows another 266 children have been injured, totaling more than 431 child casualties in 41 days. The office cautions the figures are higher, as reports are not finalized from all areas, including Mariupol and parts of Kyiv.

The United Nations estimates 1,480 civilians have been killed and another 2,195 injured, as of April 4. Most casualties were caused by shelling and airstrikes. As it has daily, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) again warned that actual figures are "much higher."

Data breakdown from OHCHR:

  • 1,480 killed, including: 331 men, 211 women, 22 girls, and 40 boys, as well as 61 children and 815 adults whose sex is unknown.
  • 2,195 injured, including: 253 men, 194 women, 43 girls, and 40 boys, as well as 100 children and 1,565 adults whose sex is unknown.
Bucha
Workers carry the body of people found dead to a cemetery in Bucha, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine on April 5, 2022. Felipe Dana/AP Photo

EU's Von Der Leyen to Meet With Zelensky in Kyiv

European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice President Josep Borrell Fontelles will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv this week.

E.U. Commission Chief spokesman Eric Mamer confirmed the trip Tuesday. The three will meet in Kyiv "prior to the pledging event Stand Up For Ukraine on Saturday in Warsaw," Mamer said.

Von der Leyen and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau organized Saturday's event in Poland to raise funds for Ukrainian refugees. The event is "in recognition of Poland's essential role in supporting refugees fleeing the invasion of Ukraine," the E.U. Commission said.

The United Nations estimates over 4.2 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began, with well over 2.4 million entering Poland. At least another 6.5 million are internally displaced.

Several artists are also set to take part, including Bono, Madonna, Elton John, Miley Cyrus and Céline Dion. Poland's President Andrzej Duda will be in attendance Saturday and Trudeau will participate remotely, the E.U. Commission says.

The trip announcement followed von der Leyen's announcement of a fifth sanctions package against Russia. In a phone call Monday, von der Leyen spoke with Zelensky about the "dreadful" murders uncovered in Bucha.

"I conveyed to him my condolences and assured him of the European Commission's full support in these terrible times," she said. "The harrowing images cannot and will not be left unanswered."

von der Leyen
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen rings a bell to signal the start of the weekly College of Commissioners meeting at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Ronald Wittek, Pool Photo via AP

Zelensky Shares Graphic Video of Dead Civilians in Ukraine

After his remarks to the U.N. Security Council, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shared a video showing the atrocities in Ukraine.

The video showed images of lifeless bodies of civilians, including children, laying in wells, in the middle of the road and in mass graves in several cities in Ukraine.

Zelensky asked the council to "act immediately" to hold Russia accountable for its war and to bring about peace in Ukraine.

"Geography might be different or various, but cruelty is the same," he said. "Crimes are the same and accountability must be inevitable."

Warning: This video contains graphic, disturbing images

Russia Wants to 'Cut Out the Nazi Tumor' in Ukraine

Hundreds of thousands have been "voluntarily evacuated" to Russia since the invasion started, Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya claimed Tuesday.

"Over 600,000 people have been evacuated to Russia, including over 119,000 children," Nebenzya said during Tuesday's U.N. Security Council meeting. "We're not talking about any kind of coercion or abduction as our Western partners like to present this. But rather the voluntary decision by these people," he said, citing evidence on social media.

Nebenzya also blamed Ukraine for failing to uphold arrangements reached on humanitarian corridors. He said Russia "managed to save" some 123,000 people from Mariupol and towards the east without "any participation" from Ukraine. Continuing to call the invasion a "special military operation," Nebenzya claimed that Russia's goal is to reach a "true lasting peace."

"We came to Ukraine not to conquer lands," he said. "We came to bring the long-awaited peace to the blood-soaked land of Donbas. We need to cut out the malignant Nazi tumor that is consuming Ukraine and would, in time, begin to consume Russia. And we will achieve that goal."

Prior to Nebenzya's remarks, the council played a graphic video provided by the Ukrainian delegation showing dead civilians in various parts of Ukraine. Nebenzya directly addressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke to the council a few moments prior.

"We place on your conscience the ungrounded accusations against the Russian military which are not confirmed by any eyewitnesses," Nebenzya said.

UNSC
Vasily Alekseevich Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations, speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council on April 5, 2022. John Minchillo/AP Photo

More Russian Diplomats Expelled Over National Security Concerns

The international community is continuing to hold Russia accountable for its war in Ukraine by ousting Russian diplomats.

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares announced that at least 25 diplomats and staff from the Russian Embassy in Madrid will be expelled.

He said this move comes as a "response to crimes that cannot go unpunished" as reports of atrocities in Ukraine cities where Russian troops recently left note "a turning point which the international community cannot ignore."

Denmark will expel 15 Russian intelligence officers who worked at the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen.

Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said those individuals "pose a threat to our national security."

Denmark strongly condemned "Russia's brutality against Ukrainian civilians in Bucha" and stressed that "deliberate attacks on civilians are a war crime."

Italy said it is expelling 30 Russian diplomats for "national security reasons," Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on RAI news.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi is demanding that Russian leaders "answer for their actions" in Ukraine, including the "documented massacre of civilians" in towns such as Bucha and Irpin, the Associated Press reported.

The war crimes "must be punished," Draghi said. "To President Putin, I say again, 'Put an end to the hostilities, interrupt the massacres and make a cease-fire.'"

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde said three Russia diplomats will be expelled, labeling them as "persona non grata" due to their violations of the Vienna Convention. She told reporters it was "obvious that war crimes have been committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Latvia also announced it will close two Russian Consulate and expel their staff.

"The decision was taken in solidarity with Ukraine in its fight against the unprovoked and unjustified military aggression and war started by Russia," the Latvian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Latvia, repeatedly and in the strongest possible terms, condemns the aggression by the Russian Federation and its full-scale invasion of Ukraine."

On Monday, Germany announced its plan expel 40 Russian diplomats and France said it will expel 35 Russian diplomats, citing national security reasons.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said this move is a response to the "incredible cruelty of the Russian leadership and those who follow the propaganda, the desire for destruction that has no limits."

The French Foreign Ministry said the Russian diplomats were conducting "activities are contrary to our security interests."

U.S. Calls to Remove Russia From U.N. Human Rights Council

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield called to remove Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council Tuesday, saying its participation is hypocritical and dangerous.

"Russia using its membership on the Human Rights Council as a platform for propaganda to suggest Russia has a legitimate concern for human rights," Thomas-Greenfield said during Tuesday's U.N. Security Council meeting.

"Every lie we hear from the Russian representative is more evidence that they do not belong on the Human Rights Council."

The U.S. assessed that Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine. Thomas-Greenfield also cited reports of children being abducted and "tens of thousands" of Ukrainian citizens are being forced to relocate to Russia. She said reports indicate that Russian forces are confiscating the passports, IDs and cell phones of citizens and separating families.

"I do not need to spell out what these so-called filtration camps are reminiscent of," Thomas-Greenfield said. "It's chilling and we cannot look away."

Thomas-Greenfield in Romania
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, shakes hands with volunteers during a visit to a help center that is assisting refugees fleeing the war from neighboring Ukraine, in Gara de Nord, the main railway station, in Bucharest, Romania on April 4, 2022. Alex Micsik /Pool Photo via AP

Zelensky Calls for Russian Removal from UN Security Council

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke in front of the United Nations Security Council.

He called for world leaders to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in Ukraine and proposed serious reforms to the Security Council.

Zelensky detailed the atrocities in Ukraine, accusing Russia of "purposely searched for people who served our country in Bucha to kill them."

He said Russian troops have shot and killed women, children and entire families and "tried to burn the bodies." He also said Russia has abducted about 2,000 children.

He added that Russian forces "cut off limbs, slashed their throats, women raped and killed in front of their children," and pulled out tongues "because the aggressor did not hear what they wanted to hear from them."

He compared Russia's actions to other terrorist forces in other countries.

"Here it is done by a member of the UN Security Council," he said.

Zelensky also accused Russia of "pursuing a consistent policy of destroying ethnic and religious diversity," saying they support hatred at the state level and "seek to export it to other countries."

"Russian leadership feels like colonizers from ancient times," he said. "Russia wants to turn Ukraine into silent slaves."

He said Russian forces are deliberately blocking aid to Ukrainian cities and said the war it started will "provoke a global food crisis" around the world that will lead to "large-scale political chaos."

Russia will continue to deny these accusations and blame Ukraine, Zelensky said.

"I know and you know what the representatives of Russia will say in response to these accusations, they've said it many times before," he said. "They will blame everyone just to justify their own actions."

Then Zelensky turned his attention to the Security Council.

"Where is the security that the Security Council needs to guarantee? It's not there. Although there is a Security Council," he said. "So where is the peace? What are those guarantees that the United Nations need to guarantee?"

He called on the Security Council to act immediately to hold Russia accountable for its war crimes and bring peace to Ukraine, suggesting tribunals akin to the Nuremberg Trials after World War II.

Zelensky said it is time to reform the United Nations. He proposed holding a global conference in Kyiv to determine these changes to better guarantees the recognition of the borders of sovereign nations and assert the rule of international law.

He said the goals set forth when the United Nations was formed 1945 have not been achieved and will be impossible to achieve without these reforms.

Zelensky criticized Russia's position as a permanent member of the Security Council and its veto power.

"We are dealing with a country that is turning its veto at the U.N. Security Council into a right to die," he said. "Ladies and Gentlemen, are you willing to close the UN. No? Then you need to act immediately."

He called for the Security Council to "remove Russia as an aggressor and the source of war, so it cannot block decisions about its own aggression."

If not, Zelensky called on the Security Council to dissolve itself.

"Please show how we can reform or change and work for peace," he said. "Or if there is no alternative and no option, then the next option would be dissolve yourself altogether."

E.U. Proposes New Sanctions, Including Import Ban on Coal

The European Union proposed a fifth sanctions package Tuesday to "increase pressure" on Russia and President Vladimir Putin, E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced.

The newest sanctions are more broad and sharp "so they cut even deeper into the Russian economy," von der Leyen said. They include an import ban on coal from Russia and sanctions on more individuals. The announcement follows the release of "gruesome" images from Bucha.

"These atrocities cannot and will not be left unanswered," von der Leyen said. The E.U. has also set up a joint investigation team with Ukraine to collect evidence into war crimes in Ukraine

"It is important to sustain utmost pressure on Putin and the Russian government at this crucial point," she said. "In view of events, we need to increase our pressure further."

The newest sanctions package includes:

  • An import ban on coal from Russia, worth €4 billion per year, cutting another important revenue source for Russia.
  • A full transaction ban on four key Russian banks, including the VTB, Russia's second largest bank.
  • A ban on Russian and Russian operated vessels from accessing E.U. ports and a ban on Russian and Belarusian road transport operators.
  • Further export bans, worth €10 billion, in crucial areas: advanced semiconductors, machinery and transport equipment.
  • Specific new import bans, worth €5.5 billion euros. This ban aims to "cut the money stream" of Russia and its oligarchs from several products including seafood and liquor. It will also close loopholes between Russia and Belarus.
  • Targeted measures, such as a ban on participation of Russian companies in public procurement in E.U. member states and exclusion of all financial support, E.U. or national to Russian public bodies.

The E.U. is also working on further sanctions, including oil imports.

Blinken Travels to Brussels for NATO Summit on Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on his way to meet with his NATO counterparts in Brussels.

NATO foreign ministers will meet Wednesday and Thursday to address Russia's war against Ukraine. The alliance will specifically discuss reports of atrocities in Ukrainian cities like Bucha.

Before he left, Blinken condemned reports of Russia's "deliberate campaign" to commit atrocities in Ukraine as Russian troops recede from cities around Kyiv.

"As this Russian tide is receding from parts of Ukraine, the world is seeing the death and destruction left in its wake, and we're seeing, in particular, the horror that's been left behind in Bucha, something that is touching people literally around the world," he told reporters.

Blinken said the images from Bucha is "not the random act of a rogue unit," but rather a "deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities."

"The reports are more than credible, the evidence is there for the world to see," he added.

Watch: U.N. Security Council Meeting

The United Nations Security Council is meeting Tuesday to discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine and ways to hold the Kremlin accountable for the attacks in Bucha.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to address the council by video. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. EST Tuesday, watch live here or below: