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Thursday evening news briefing: Leaked Russian troop messages

Evening briefing: Today’s essential headlines

‘Keep families out of it’ | Boris Johnson suggested the families of politicians should be out of bounds for political attacks after Labour said Chancellor Rishi Sunak has “very serious questions to answer” about his wife’s tax arrangements. Millionaire Akshata Murthy holds non-domicile status – meaning she is not legally obliged to pay tax in Britain on foreign income. It came as polling showed Mr Sunak’s decline in popularity.

The big story: Battle for Donbas ‘will be like WW2’

They are the intercepted messages that could play a key role in establishing that Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine. 

After atrocities were discovered in newly-liberated towns in the Kyiv region, recordings are said to prove that Kremlin forces murdered civilians. As Justin Huggler writes from Berlin, the audio uncovered by German intelligence services reportedly includes Russian soldiers openly discussing the killings.

Russia’s invasion is entering a pivotal phase as Vladimir Putin pressures his generals to deliver a significant victory before May 9 to compensate for their defeat in the capital, Western officials said. 

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, today said that the battle for the Donbas will “resemble the Second World War” with large tactical manoeuvers using thousands of tanks, planes and armoured vehicles.

As the UN Human Rights Council suspended Russia’s membership, follow the latest in our liveblog

In other developments:

From the almost unimaginable scale of the war come tales of individual suffering that epitomise the widespread horrors. In Bucha, a six-year-old boy is pictured laying food on the grave of his mother, who starved to death in some of the worst atrocities of the war so far. 

And it has emerged that a woman killed in the same town was identified after her make-up artist recognised her nail polish from a photograph. 

For more front line reports to your inbox, try our Dispatches from Ukraine newsletter.

Analysis: War ‘bounce’

The overwhelming condemnation of Russia’s aggression had a knock-on effect on the continent’s politics, with European leaders united in criticism of Vladimir Putin’s regime and issuing heavy sanctions. For Emmanuel Macron, who is facing presidential elections in France, the crisis granted him the opportunity to bolster support. Viktor Orban’s victory in the Hungary elections to secure his fourth term in office were credited in part to his policies on the war. In the video analysis below, Europe editor James Crisp explains which leaders have benefited from a so-called “war bounce”. It came as reports suggested that France is “splitting Nato” with its push to continue talks with Mr Putin despite widespread claims of war crimes. In Italy, prime minister Mario Draghi said Europe must choose between peace in Ukraine – or air conditioning in summer.

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