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Putin warns West of lightning retaliation for intervention in Ukraine

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Germany, the biggest buyer of Russian energy, hopes to stop importing Russian oil within days but warned that a Russian energy embargo or blockade would tip Europe’s largest economy into recession.

Gazprom, Russia’s gas export monopoly, suspended gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland on Wednesday for not paying in roubles, a move aimed to soften the impact of sanctions.

While the president of the European Commission said Gazprom’s suspension was “yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail”.

France will host a meeting of EU energy ministers on May 2.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia remained a reliable energy supplier and denied it was engaging in blackmail. He declined to say how many countries had agreed to pay for gas in roubles.

Sanctions are taking a heavy toll on Russia, with its economy ministry indicating in a document the economy could shrink by as much as 12.4 per cent this year.

‘WAR CRIMES’

Canadian lawmakers voted unanimously on Wednesday to call Russia’s attacks in Ukraine a “genocide”, with members of parliament saying there was “ample evidence of systemic and massive war crimes against humanity” being committed by Russia.

Canada’s parliament said in a motion Russia’s war crimes included mass atrocities, wilful killing of civilians, the desecration of corpses, forcible transfer of children, torture, physical and mental harm, and rape.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

Since the Russian invasion force was driven back at the outskirts of Kyiv last month, Moscow has refocused its operation on eastern Ukraine, starting a new offensive to fully capture two provinces known as the Donbas.

Russia’s Black Sea fleet retains the ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets, despite its losses of the landing ship Saratov and the cruiser Moskva, Britain’s defence ministry said.

About 20 Russian navy vessels, including submarines, are in the Black Sea operational zone, the ministry said on Twitter.

Reuters could not immediately verify the report.

Ukraine said Russian forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in Kherson, the first big city it has seized. A series of powerful explosions caused by rockets hit Kherson later on Wednesday, Ria News agency reported.

Blasts were heard earlier in three Russian provinces bordering Ukraine, authorities said, and an ammunition depot in the Belgorod province caught fire.

Kyiv has not confirmed responsibility for these and other incidents but has described them as payback. “Karma is a cruel thing,” presidential adviser Mikhaylo Podolyak wrote on social media.

An aide to the mayor of the ruined port city of Mariupol said Russian forces had renewed their attacks on the Azovstal steel plant, where fighters and some civilians remain holed up.

Concern has also increased over the prospect of the conflict widening to neighbouring Moldova, where pro-Russian separatists have blamed Ukraine for reported attacks this week in their region, occupied since the 1990s by Russian troops.



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