The US, UK and EU are set to impose new punishing sanctions targeting Russia, including a ban on all new investment in the country, after evidence of torture and killings emerged in recent days from a town outside Kyiv.
The Associated Press has seen dozens of dead bodies around the town of Bucha, while Ukrainian officials said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in towns around the Ukrainian capital city that were recaptured from Russian forces.
Videos and images of bodies have unleashed a wave of indignation among western allies, who have drawn up new sanctions as a response.
After several European countries announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats, the European Commission proposed a fifth package of sanctions, including a ban on coal imports that could be adopted as soon as Wednesday once unanimously approved by the 27-nation bloc’s ambassadors.
The US and western allies plan to impose a ban on all new investment in Russia. Among the other measures being taken against Russia are greater sanctions on its financial institutions and state-owned enterprises, and sanctions on government officials and their family members, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Separately, the Treasury Department on Tuesday moved to block any Russian government debt payments with US dollars from accounts at US financial institutions, making it harder for Russia to meet its financial obligations.
The European Commission’s proposed ban on coal imports would be the first EU sanction targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the ban is worth 4 billion euros (about £3.35 billion) per year and the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.
She did not mention natural gas, with consensus among the 27 EU countries on targeting the fuel used to generate electricity and heat homes difficult to secure amid opposition from gas-dependent members like Germany, the bloc’s largest economy.
But European Council president Charles Michel said the bloc should keep up the pressure on the Kremlin, suggesting that an embargo on gas imports should also be required at some point in the future.
“The new package includes a ban on coal imports,” Mr Michel said on Wednesday. “I think that measures on oil, and even gas, will also be needed, sooner or later.”
The new package of measures proposed by the commission also includes sanctions on more individuals and four key Russian banks, among them VTB, the second-largest Russian bank.
The bloc would also ban Russian vessels and Russian-operated vessels from EU ports.
Further targeted export bans, worth 10 billion euros (about £8.3 billion), in sectors covering quantum computers, advanced semiconductors, sensitive machinery and transportation equipment also were proposed.
“I appreciate the strengthening of the 5th EU sanctions package: bans on Russian coal, vessels accessing EU ports, and road transport operators,” Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
“But it will take a gas/oil embargo and de-SWIFTing of all Russian banks to stop Putin. Difficult times require difficult decisions.”
Western allies have already cut several Russian banks out of the Swift financial messaging system, which daily moves countless billions around more than 11,000 banks and other financial institutions around the world.