Hillary Clinton: ‘Double down on the pressure’ on Russia
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday called on the U.S. and its allies to “double down” on their pressure on Russia amid its increasingly brutal invasion of Ukraine.
“The only way that we’re going to end the bloodshed and the terror that we’re seeing unleashed in Ukraine, and protect Europe and democracy, is to do everything we can to impose even greater costs on Putin. There are more banks that can be sanctioned. … There is an increasing call for doing more on gas and oil,” Clinton said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
She added: “So I think that now is the time to double down on the pressure.”
Clinton clashed with Russian President Vladimir Putin during her tenure as secretary of state, and the increasingly authoritarian leader blamed her in 2011 for mass protests in his country. Both Clinton and experts have said that Putin’s grudge against her helped motivate his decision to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, in which she was the Democratic nominee. (“He has a personal beef against me,” she said in 2016.)
On Sunday, Clinton said: “We are really looking at this with our eyes wide open and seeing very clearly the threat he poses — not just to Ukraine, as we can watch every night on our news — but really to Europe, to democracy and the global stability that we thought we were building in the last 20 years.”
She also backed calls to exclude Putin from the G20 summit in November, when leaders of the world’s largest economies are set to meet in the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Clinton said that if Putin does show up, as he has indicated, then his critics should boycott the event.
“I would not allow Russia back into the organizations that it has been a part of. I think that there’s an upcoming G20 event later in the year. I would not permit Russia to attend, and if they insisted on literally showing up, I would hope there would be a significant if not total boycott,” she said.
Her comments come as the Ukrainian government is presenting its latest evidence of alleged Russian war crimes. Earlier in the day Sunday, Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of mass executions of Ukrainian civilians in the outskirts of Kyiv, in particular the city of Bucha in the northwest.
Agence France-Press reporters saw “at least 20 bodies on a single street … including one with his hands tied, and the body of a missing photographer was discovered in a nearby village.” Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told the news outlet that 280 other bodies were buried in mass graves.
Russia denied the reports, calling them “fake.”
“Oh, God, how I wanted to spit on them or hit them,” said Yevdokiya Koneva, 57, her voice steely as she pushed her aging bicycle toward the center of town Friday.
Ukrainian forces are gaining ground, as more than a month into the war, Russian forces are pulling back from their positions north of Kyiv, the capital, even as Ukrainian soldiers are making progress here in the northeast. This area was supposed to be little more than a speed bump for a sprawling military campaign that would quickly take the country’s capital and leave the east in Russian hands.
Instead, a combination of logistics issues, low morale and poor planning among Russian forces allowed an emboldened Ukrainian military to go on the offensive along multiple axes, grinding down the occupying forces and splintering their front lines.
The Ukrainian victory in Trostyanets came March 26 — what residents call “Liberation Day” — and is an example of how disadvantaged and smaller Ukrainian units have launched successful counterattacks.
It also shows how the Russian military’s inability to win a quick victory — in which it would “liberate” a friendly population — left its soldiers in a position that they were vastly unprepared for: holding an occupied town with an unwelcoming local populace.
“We didn’t want this dreadful ‘liberation,’ ” said Nina Ivanivna Panchenko, 64, who was walking in the rain after collecting a package of humanitarian aid. “Just let them never come here again.”
Interviews with more than a dozen residents of Trostyanets, a modest town of about 19,000 situated in a bowl of rolling hills roughly 20 miles from the Russian border, paint a stark picture of struggle and fear during the Russian occupation. The unrelenting violence from both Ukrainian and Russian forces fighting to retake and hold the town raged for weeks and drove people into basements or anywhere they could find shelter.
On Friday, dazed residents walked through what is left of their city, sorting through the debris as some power was restored for the first time in weeks. Viktor Panov, a railway worker, was helping to clear the shrapnel-shattered train station of unexploded shells, grenades and other scattered explosives. Other men cannibalized destroyed Russian armored vehicles for parts or working machinery.
“I can’t wrap my head around how this war with tanks and missiles is possible,” said Olena Volkova, 57, the head doctor at the hospital and the deputy head of the town council. “Against who? The peaceful civilians?
“This is true barbarity,” she said.
The war began in Trostyanets on Feb. 24, the day the Russians launched their invasion of Ukraine. The town quickly became a thoroughfare for advancing Russian tank columns as they punched farther west, part of their northeastern offensive toward Kyiv. Thousands of armored vehicles rolled through, breaking highway guard rails and chewing up roads.
“As the Russians drove in, for the first two days, our guys fought back well, so long as they had heavy weapons,” Panov, 37, said. “After they ran out of those, they were left only with rifles.”
Farther west, the offensive blitz toward Kyiv soon encountered fierce Ukrainian resistance, stopping the Russians short of the capital, meaning that soldiers would have to occupy Trostyanets rather than just move through it. Roughly 800 troops fanned out, constructing a dozen or so checkpoints that cut the town into a grid of isolated neighborhoods.
Residents say they rarely tried to move through the Russian positions, although they described the occupying soldiers as amiable enough in the first days of the occupation and more confused than anything.
“The first brigade of Russian forces that came in were more or less tolerable,” Volkova said. “They said, ‘OK, we will help you.’ ”
That help, Volkova explained, was just allowing them to pull corpses off the streets. She added that roughly 20 people had been killed during the occupation and the ensuing fighting — 10 had suffered gunshot wounds.