As the Russian invasions of Ukraine continues with mounting civilian casualties and fear that the Kremlin might resort to tactical nuclear weapons in the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged President Biden to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Zelensky made the request to blacklist Russia while speaking to Biden on the phone, and the White House is said to be reviewing the state sponsor designation, which allows the U.S. to adopt the most aggressive sanctions, according to media reports.
Four countries — North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba — are on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The discussion about the state sponsor designation was “a very brief part of the call,” which was mainly about Ukraine’s urgent appeals for more weapons and energy sanctions against Russia, NBC News reported, citing anonymous administrative sources.
“We have put in place the most unprecedented sanctions and export controls with over 30 countries across four continents,” a source was quoted as saying. “As usual, we’re not going to comment on any one specific option, but we will continue to consider all options to increase the pressure on Putin.”
Sources also told The Times (U.K.) that Biden is keeping the move under consideration, and observers believe Russia’s history under President Putin might fulfill the criteria for the designation.
Meanwhile, in an interview with CNN, which aired Sunday, Zelensky warned that Putin could use nuclear or chemical weapons against Ukraine.
“Not only me … all of the world, all of the countries have to be worried because it can be not real information, but it can be truth,” Zelensky told CNN. “Chemical weapons … they could do it, for them the life of the people [is] nothing. … We should think not be afraid, not be afraid but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine but for all the world, I think.”
Since Russia began its invasion on Feb. 24, it’s estimated that at least 1,982 civilians have been killed and 2,651 have been injured as of an April 15 update from the United Nations. Among those killed are 162 children.
“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the U.N. said, adding that the actual number of casualties is likely to be “considerably higher.”
Late Sunday, the Qatari government-run news outlet Al Jazeera quoted the Crimean Human Rights Group as saying that the Russian military had forcibly removed around 150 children from the shattered Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
The children were likely taken to the temporarily-occupied Donetsk region and the Russian city of Taganrog, an advisor to Mariupol’s Mayor Petro Andriushchenko was quoted as saying.
In the last known pocket of resistance inside besieged Mariupol on Sunday, about 2,500 Ukrainian troops and about 400 foreign mercenaries holed up in a steel plant ignored Russia’s ultimatum that they surrender or face destruction by Russian forces, The Guardian reported.
“Russian forces, meanwhile, carried out aerial attacks near Kyiv and elsewhere in an apparent effort to weaken Ukraine’s military capacity ahead of the anticipated assault,” it said.
The British newspaper also reported that Ukraine had completed a questionnaire required for the European Union to begin to decide on its membership.
More than 280 priests and deacons of the Russian Orthodox Church and over 400 ministers of Evangelical churches in Russia have called for reconciliation and an immediate end to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.