Vladimir Putin with Russia’s “Commissioner for Children’s Rights” Maria Lvova-Belova, March 2022
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EA on Times Radio: Fighter Jets for Ukraine Will Make War “Very Difficult” for Putin
EA on India’s WION News: China’s Xi to Visit Putin in Moscow
Thursday’s Coverage: Russia Offensive “Slowing” as Up to 30,000 Troops Lost in Battle for Bakhmut
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1839 GMT:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has confirmed that he will accept Finland’s accession to NATO.
Following talks with Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö in Ankara, Erdoğan said:
When it comes to fulfilling its pledges in the trilateral memorandum of understanding [between Finland, Sweden, and Turkey], we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps….
This sensitivity for our country’s security and, based on the progress that has been made in the protocol for Finland’s accession to Nato, we have decided to initiate the ratification process in our Parliament.
The Turkish President, seeking re-election in May, is still maintaining his objection to Sweden’s accession. Hungary is the only other NATO member yet to accept the two Scandinavian countries.
Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership last May. The Erdoğan Government has used the candidacies to demand that Stockholm and Oslo put pressure on Kurdish activists.
Erdoğan said today, “Such [Kurdish] demonstrations do not take place in Finland. For that reason we had to consider it separately from Sweden.”
Niinistö pointedly supported Stockholm, “I have a feeling that Finnish Nato membership is not complete without Sweden.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström commented, “It is a question of when Sweden becomes a member, not if. In terms of our security, our position is better now than when we applied for membership of NATO.”
UPDATE 1818 GMT:
Estonian President Kaja Kallas is among world’s leaders welcoming the arrest warrants, issued by the International Criminal Court, against Vladimir Putin and senior Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova.
Step closer to judgement day.
With first warrant of arrest for #Putin, #ICC sends out historic signal: all atrocities against Ukraine stem from criminal policy of Russian leaders.
Reminder that no-one is immune, not even heads of state. Russian regime will be held accountable. https://t.co/WWddPzuNfd
— Kaja Kallas (@kajakallas) March 17, 2023
UPDATE 1814 GMT:
Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian “Commissioner for Children’s Rights” has responded to her arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, justifying the deportation of Ukrainian children which led to her being charged.
It’s great that the international community has appreciated this work to help the children of our country: that we don’t leave them in war zones, that we take them out, that we create good conditions for them, that we surround them with loving, caring people.
FEATURED UPDATE: The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and Russia’s “Commissioner for Children’s Rights” Maria Lvova-Belova.
The ICC has charged the two Russians over responsibility for the “war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children”.
The warrants come only a day after an independent investigative committee, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, reported its findings on Russian war crimes. These included “wilful” killings, rapes, torture, and unlawful detentions of civilians as well as the mass deportation of Ukrainians (see Original Entry).
The President of the Court, Piotr Hofmanski, explained that the warrants were being made public “in the interest of justice and to prevent the commission of future crimes”:
This is an important moment in the process of justice before the ICC. The judges have reviewed the evidence and information submitted by the prosecutor and determined there are credible allegations against these persons for the alleged crimes.
#ICC President Judge Piotr Hofmański on recent arrest warrants against Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova in the context of the situation in #Ukraine
More info: https://t.co/5OMC7Xuuy5 pic.twitter.com/45bT4mHqIs
— Int'l Criminal Court (@IntlCrimCourt) March 17, 2023
Officials said early this week that the ICC was planning to open the first cases over Russian war crimes. They cited cases connected with Russia’s deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure, as well as with the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian juveniles to Russian re-education camps.
See also Ukraine War, Day 384: ICC to Seek 1st Arrests Over Russia’s War Crimes
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba responded to today’s announcement:
Wheels of Justice are turning: I applaud the ICC decision to issue arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova over forcible transfer of Ukrainian children. International criminals will be held accountable for stealing children and other international crimes.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 17, 2023
Presidential Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak added:
The international criminal court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and his children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova.
It's just the beginning.
— Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) March 17, 2023
And Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak contributed:
The world changed. The ICC issued an arrest warrant for "strategist" Putin. It's a clear signal to RU elites of what will happen to them & why it won’t be "as before". It's the beginning of RF’s end in its current form on the world stage. It's a clear legal procedure. Just wait.
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) March 17, 2023
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova had a different reaction: “The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view. Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it.”
UPDATE 1106 GMT:
UK military intelligence assesses that Russian forces, including Wagner Group mercenaries, have finally established a foothold west of the Bakhmutka River in the city of Bakhmut.
The invaders had been stuck at the river, which runs through the city in the Donetsk region, since last month.
Despite the advance, the UK analysts say:
More broadly across the frontline, Russia is conducting some of the lowest rates of local offensive action that have been seen since at least January 2023. This is most likely because Russian forces have temporarily depleted the deployed combat formations’ power to such an extent that even local offensive actions are not currently sustainable.
The Ukrainian army’s General Staff said Russian troops carried out more than 70 attacks in the past day in eastern Ukraine, with the focus on Bakhmut.
UPDATE 1035 GMT:
Local media say four people were killed in Thursday’s explosions, in a building of the Russia State security service FSB. in Rostov.
Russian officials said the blasts were caused by an electrical short-circuit which detonated containers with fuel and lubricants.
Four people died in the #FSB border guard building in #Rostov-on-Don, local media reported. pic.twitter.com/Gm8bELeIJf
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) March 17, 2023
UPDATE 1029 GMT:
Slovakia Prime Minister Eduard Heger says the Government has approved the supply of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.
#Slovak gov. just approved sending 13 #MiG29s to #Ukraine! Promises must be kept&when @ZelenskyyUa asked for more #weapons incl. fighter jets, I said we’ll do our best. Glad others’re doing the same. #Military aid’s🔑to ensure🇺🇦can defend itself&the entire #Europe against #Russia
— Eduard Heger (@eduardheger) March 17, 2023
Defence minister Jaroslav Nad said Slovakia will receive €200 million ($213 million) from the European Union as compensation. The US is sending unspecified arms worth $745 million.
Slovakia’s 13 MiG-29s were retired last summer, lacking spare parts and personnel for maintenance after Russian technicians went home.
But Ukrainian MPs welcomed that other countries will soon join the commitments from Poland and Slovakia.
🇸🇰Slovakia will supply 13 MiG-29 fighters to #Ukraine. This is in addition to 4 MiG-29 that Poland announced yesterday.
Dear Dutch, Swedes, French, British, Germans, Finns, Americans, what about you?
F-16, F/A-18, Eurofighter, JAS39, Rafale and Tornado would help us win faster!
— Inna Sovsun (@InnaSovsun) March 17, 2023
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sneered, “It seems that these countries are thus engaged in the disposal of old unnecessary equipment.”
But then he betrayed the concern that NATO members are “increasing their level of direct involvement in the conflict”.
UPDATE 0757 GMT:
Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group may have posted false information about a “plot”, involving Vladimir Putin and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, to undermine and “neutralize” it.
On Thursday, Wagner’s press service published a supposed request for comment from Russian outlet Nezavisimaya Gazeta about the alleged discussions between Putin and Patrushev. The Security Council Secretary allegedly said to Putin that there will be “nothing left” of Wagner in “one and a half to two months”. He then claimed that Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin will try to “unite the former and remaining active Wagner fighters under a far-fetched pretext” arm them, and “send them to the territory of Russia to seize power in the regions bordering Ukraine with a possible advance inland”. Putin agreed and thanked Patrushev for his efforts to “neutralize Wagner in general and Yevgeny Prigozhin in particular.”
However, Nezivisimaya Gazeta has not published the press comment on its own site, and there is no record of it elsewhere.
The incident may point, amid Prigozhin’s battle for power with other Russian political and military leaders, to Wagner identifying Patrushev as an enemy — and criticizing Putin as well.
UPDATE 0734 GMT:
The former mayor of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s 4th-largest city, has been imprisoned over a social media post.
Yevgeny Roizman was punished over a video in February 2022 that briefly showed the logo of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, established by Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The Foundation was outlawed as as an “extremist” organization in 2021.
A court in Yekaterinburg sentenced Roizman to 14 days of administrative arrest.
Roizman, one of the last opposition figures in Russia who is still free, is awaiting trial on charges of discrediting the Russian army. He faces a sentence of up to three years.
UPDATE 0705 GMT:
Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Thursday that Warsaw will deliver four Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine in the next few days.
Duda said the first delivery will be of planes inherited from East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The MiGs are coming to the end of their combat readiness but are “still in working order”.
The President assured more MiG-29s — Poland has 28, scheduled to be replaced over the next few years by South Korean FA-50s and US F-35s — are being serviced and repaired in preparation for delivery.
Poland had said that it would only confirm the supply as part of an international coalition. However, the US and Germany continued to avoid any public committment.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Duda’s announcement “doesn’t change our calculus with respect to F-16s. These are sovereign decisions for any country to make and we respect those sovereign decisions.”
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told reporters, “So far, everyone has agreed that it’s not the time to send fighter jets. I don’t have any confirmation from Poland yet that this has happened.”
Other countries have been more receptive. Slovakia, Finland, and the Netherlands have all said they would consider supply of fighter jets to Ukraine as part of a coalition.
Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Wednesday: “This is something we’re discussing in the group of allied countries. It’s a big wish from Ukraine.” Acting Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen added that Copenhagen is “open” to the idea.
On Wednesday, Polish Government spokesman Piotr Mueller said some other countries have pledged MiGs to Kyiv, but did not name them.
UPDATE 0701 GMT:
The latest Russian shelling of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine has killed two civilians and wounded eight, including a foreign volunteer.
One resident was slain in Toretsk and one in Krasnohorivka.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: A UN commission, examining Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, has concluded that “Russian authorities have committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law and violations of international human rights law, in addition to a wide range of war crimes”.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry, established by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2022, submitted its latest report on Wednesday. The evidence covers Russia’s waves of missile and drone strikes against civilian sites and energy infrastructure; military operations in civilian areas, including at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant; the “wilful” killings, rapes, torture, and unlawful detentions of civilians as well as the mass deportation of Ukrainians.
See also Ukraine War, Day 384: ICC to Seek 1st Arrests Over Russia’s War Crimes
The findings are supported by interviews with 348 women and 247 men; inspections of sites of destruction, graves, places of detention, and torture; examinaton of weapon remnants; and documents, photographs, satellite imagery, and videos.
The Commission emphasizes in its conclusion:
Survivors have highlighted the importance of identifying those responsible and bringing them to account.
One man, whose father was executed by Russian armed forces in a village of the Kharkiv region, told the Commission: “They punished innocent people; now those who are guilty, if they are still alive, need to be punished to the fullest extent.”
While calling on Russia to “cease aggression and all acts of violence committed against civilians”, the investigators point to the necessity of accountability. They suggest a special tribunal to consider “crimes of aggression”, complementing the International Criminal Court’s consideration of “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide”.
Zelenskiy: “All Will Be Held Accountable”
Two weeks ago prosecutors from countries in Europe and North America agreed the establishment of the International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Russia’s Aggression. The center, based in The Hague in the Netherlands will begin its work this summer.
The center is envisaged as the first towards the special tribunal to try Russian political and military figures for the crimes of aggression during the invasion.
Ukraine War, Day 375: International Agreement to Prosecute Russia’s “Crimes of Aggression”
In his nightly address to the nation, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pledged:
The day will come when a tribunal will be established to bring justice to our people. A tribunal that will punish this aggressor in the same way as the aggressors of the past were punished.
We will do all the legal work. We will mobilize all the partners that are necessary for this. This is already being done. Every day we bring justice closer to Ukraine. We work for this every day….
Rashism [Russian fascism] will not be able to remain unpunished evil. There will be punishment. And if some terrorists hope to hide somewhere, it will not work for them.
All those who bombed Ukraine. Who burned our villages, who shelled Ukrainian cities… Mykolaiv, Kherson, Nikopol and Marhanets, Zaporizhzhia, cities of Donbas, Kharkiv, Kharkiv region. All those who carry out terrorist fire against the communities of Chernihiv and Sumy regions. All those who brought the war to Donetsk and Luhansk. All those who tried to enslave Crimea. All Rashists will be held accountable. They will be held to account for every Ukrainian life taken.