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Live blog: US backs special tribunal on Russia ‘aggression’ against Ukraine

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The United States has thrown its support behind a special international tribunal to try Russia for “aggression” against Ukraine, building momentum to “prosecute the crime” for the first time since the aftermath of World War II.

The State Department said the United States would work with allies to set up a “special tribunal on the crime of aggression” over Russia’s February 2022 offensive of its neighbour.

“We envision such a court having significant international support — particularly from our partners in Europe — and ideally located in another country in Europe,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.

Beth Van Schaack, the US ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, said the United States wanted the court to have international personnel and resources.

That “will provide the clearest path to establishing a new tribunal and maximising our chances of achieving meaningful accountability,” she said in a speech Monday at the Catholic University of America.

She said the United States was “committed” working with other countries to provide resources for such a tribunal “in a way that will achieve comprehensive accountability for the international crimes being committed in Ukraine.”

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2020 GMT — France recognises 30s starvation in Ukraine as ‘genocide’

The French parliament has recognised as “genocide” the 1930s starvation of millions in Ukraine under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, a move welcomed by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In a resolution adopted by 168 votes to two, the French deputies called on the government to do the same, as the current Russian offensive in Ukraine revives memories of the atrocity meted out on the country in the 1930s.

Zelenskyy swiftly hailed the “historic decision,” in a tweet thanking French MPs.

The text adopted in Paris on Tuesday recognises “the genocidal nature of the forced and planned famine by the Soviet authorities against the Ukrainian population in 1932 and 1933”.

The French parliament condemned those acts and “affirms its support for the Ukrainian people in their aspiration to have the mass crimes committed against them by the Soviet regime recognised”.

GMT 1935 — Russia says no ‘separatist sentiments’ in Moldova’s Transnistria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Moscow does not see any “separatist sentiments” in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria.

“Legislatively, punishment has been introduced for the so-called separatism. But we don’t see separatist sentiment in Transnistria; we see the Transnistrian leadership’s strong desire to comply with their commitments in the 5 2 format, and which are aimed at a full, mutually acceptable settlement of Transnistria’s status,” Lavrov said during an interview with Russian state news agency TASS.

Lavrov also claimed that the 5 2 format of meetings on the issue were frozen due to “the policy of the West which decided to take the ‘settlement’ into its own hands, impose this settlement on Tiraspol, and fully support the confrontational, short-sighted, dead-end policy of [Moldovan] President [Maia] Sandu.”

Lavrov claimed that Ukraine also played a negative role on the situation surrounding the issue by siding with Moldova, which he claimed to be “in violation of its mediator status in the 5 2 format.”

Russia announces downing US-supported rocket to Ukraine

Moscow has announced it had for the first time downed a long-range rocket supplied to Ukraine by the United States, weapons Kiev said were key to an anticipated counter-attack against Russian forces.

The statement from Russia’s defence ministry came a day after Ukraine said it received modern Leopard and Challenger battle tanks from Germany and the United Kingdom to push back Moscow’s army in east and southern Ukraine.

“Air defence (forces) downed… a GLSDB guided rocket,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement, referring to ground-launched small diameter bombs produced by Boeing and the Saab Group.

These devices have a range of up to 150 kilometres (93 miles), which would threaten Russian positions and supply depots far behind the front lines.

The Pentagon announced last month it was providing Ukraine with the artillery as part of a $2.2 billion arms package.

1805 GMT – Ukraine received $7B from US, EU since start of 2023: Premier

Ukraine has said that it has received more than $7 billion from the US and the EU since the start of the year.

“Since the beginning of the year, Ukraine has received almost $5 billion of support from the EU, more than $2 billion of support from the US,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said at a government meeting.

Stating that Kiev has an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a new financial programme, Shmyhal said that the country has received financial assistance from the UK, the World Bank, Germany, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Iceland, and Estonia.

“Norway continued the payment program for 50,000 Ukrainians who are in difficult living conditions and suffered from Russian aggression. Likewise, payments under UN and Red Cross programs continue,” Shmyhal further said.

Shmyhal also said the government will pass an order to receive $2.6 billion from the US and other p artners as a part of Kiev’s second grant in providing salaries to emergency service workers, teachers, and doctors, as well as to help pensioners, internally displaced persons, people with disabilities and low-income families.

1613 GMT – Ukraine president extends tour of war’s front-line areas

Ukraine’s president has visited the Sumy region in northern Ukraine, continuing his tour over recent days of areas of the country that have felt the brunt of Russia’s full-scale offensive and as the stage increasingly looks set for a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with officials and local people in two cities in the region and with border guards at an undisclosed location near the border with Russia.

The Sumy region was partially occupied by Russian forces after the war started more than a year ago. The Russians withdrew from the region by early April.

The Associated Press was granted exclusive access as Zelenskyy visited the cities of Okhtyrka, which saw fierce battles last year but was never occupied, and Trostianets, which was held by the Russians for a month after the invasion but retaken by Ukrainian forces on March 26, 2022.

1500 GMT – Deal to protect Ukrainian nuclear plant ‘close’: IAEA head

A deal to protect Europe’s largest nuclear power plant from a catastrophic accident due to fighting in Ukraine could be “close,” the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has said, but warned that intensified combat in the area has increased risks to the facility.

In an interview with The Associated Press a day before he was to cross the front lines for a second time to visit the plant, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said he felt it was his duty to ramp up talks aimed at safeguarding the facility.

He met Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and said he would “most probably” head to Russia in the coming days.

Grossi has long called for a protection zone to be set up around the plant, which is very near the front line of the war. But so far, an agreement has been elusive.

1050 GMT – West’s Ukraine response exposes ‘double standards’: Amnesty

“The West’s formidable response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscored double standards, exposing in comparison how inconsequential their reactions have been to so many other violations of the UN Charter,” said Amnesty secretary general Agnes Callamard as she presented the group’s world report in Paris.

In its annual world report for 2022, Amnesty pointed to what it described as the West’s silence on Saudi Arabia’s rights record, repression in Egypt and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Russia’s full-scale assault, which began on February 24, 2022, “gave us an all too rare view of what becomes possible when there is political will to act” as the West closed ranks to support Ukraine, she added.

Amnesty said the conflict had highlighted shortcomings in responding to abuses in other parts of the globe.

1046 GMT – Bad weather forces electricity shutdowns in eight Ukrainian regions

Ukraine’s national grid operator imposed emergency electricity shutdowns in eight Ukrainian regions on Tuesday because of bad weather, and said Russian attacks had affected the power supply in some frontline areas.

The shutdowns follow an improvement in electricity supplies across Ukraine in recent weeks, in what officials have hailed as a victory in their battle to restore power after months of Russian missile and drone strikes.

The grid operator, Ukrenergo, said storms, wind, snow and rain in seven regions of western Ukraine and in the southern region of Odesa had resulted in blackouts for consumers.

It said electricity distribution networks in the Kharkiv region in the northeast, Zaporizhzhia in the southeast and Kherson in the south had been damaged during recent shelling.

1012 GMT – France to double munitions supplies to Ukraine – defence minister

France will double this month its supplies of 155 artillery rounds to Ukraine to about 2,000 shells a month, its defence minister told Le Figaro newspaper, adding that Paris was also planning to boost a fund that enables Kyiv to buy French weaponry.

Ukraine has identified the supply of 155 mm shells as a critical need as it engages in a fierce war of attrition with invading Russian forces. Both sides are firing thousands of artillery rounds every day.

France and Australia agreed in February a deal that would see Canberra provide gunpowder, which is not produced in France, to enable arms producer Nexter to manufacture 155mm shells. The faster deliveries will come from this, a French official said.

0837 GMT – Ukraine defence minister grateful for ‘fantastic’ UK tanks

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov gave Britain the thumbs up as he took a ride in what he said was the first British Challenger 2 main battle tank to arrive in Ukraine.

Britain said in January it would send 14 of the tanks to Ukraine, which is preparing for a possible counter-offensive against Russian forces that invaded 13 months ago.

Germany’s defence ministry said on Monday that 18 Leopard 2 battle tanks and 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles had also arrived in Ukraine.

0752 GMT – Russia says oil sales to India soar amid Ukraine conflict

Russian oil sales to India surged more than twentyfold last year as European buyers turned to other markets following the conflict in Ukraine, Russia’s deputy prime minister said Tuesday.

“Most of our energy resources were redirected to other markets, to the markets of friendly countries. If for example we take oil supplies to India, they increased 22 times last year,” Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

0418 GMT – Ukraine’s air defence downs drones over capital – Kiev

Ukrainian authorities said air defences shot down Russian drones near Kiev and falling debris set a non-residential site ablaze, but no casualties were found.

Serhiy Popko, head of the Kiev city military administration, said Russia had launched drones towards Kiev but Ukraine’s air defence forces had identified and destroyed “all enemy targets” in the airspace around the capital.

Drone wreckage fell in the western Kiev district of Sviatoshyno, sparking a fire across a 200-square-metre (2100 sq foot) area in a non-residential building, he added.

“According to preliminary data there are no casualties at this time,” Popko said in a Telegram post, though he added the information was being clarified.

Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram that a shop was set ablaze in Sviatoshyno but no casualties were found and the fire was contained.

0125 GMT – Zelenskyy decries Russia’s ‘radiation blackmail’ in Zaporizhzhia

Ukraine’s president said Russian troops were holding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant “hostage” and its safety could not be guaranteed until they left it, while his forces shut the frontline town of Avdiivka as they planned their next move.

Russian troops have occupied the nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, since the early weeks of the invasion of Ukraine and have shown no inclination to relinquish control.

“Holding a nuclear power station hostage for more than a year – this is surely the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of European or world-wide nuclear power,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

He decried the Russian presence as “radiation blackmail”.

2200 GMT – UN Security Council rejects Russian demand for Nord Stream probe

The UN Security Council has rejected a Moscow-drafted resolution calling for an independent inquiry into the sabotage last year of the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia to Germany.

Western countries have blamed the explosions under the Baltic Sea last September on Russia, but the Kremlin has accused the West of sabotage.

The resolution got three votes, with China and Brazil backing Russia and the other 12 members abstaining.

The resolution called for the creation of a commission to “conduct comprehensive, transparent and impartial international investigation of all aspects of the act of sabotage on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, including identification of its perpetrators, sponsors, organizers and accomplices.”

Russia said it had been left out of investigations launched by Sweden, Germany and Denmark, all of which have rejected the accusation.

2155 GMT – Netherlands open to supplying combat jets to Ukraine: PM

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says that his country remains open to sending fighter jets to Ukraine.

“In the Netherlands, we don’t see any taboos, we don’t rule anything out, and we consult intensively with our partners. But at the moment, no decisions have been made to train pilots for combat aircraft with us. Nothing has been decided here yet,” Rutte said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam.

Last month, the Ukrainian government officially asked the Netherlands for American-made F-16 fighter jets.

The Netherlands is phasing out its F-16 fleet. It has 24 F-16s but plans to get rid of them by next year as it switches over to the next-generation F-35. In 2021, it sold 12 planes back to the US to use as trainers.

Ukraine has been pressing the US and its European allies to provide fighter jets as top Ukrainian officials have stepped up their public lobbying campaign in recent weeks, arguing that they need the planes to defend against Russian missile and drone attacks.

But that push has been met with scepticism by the US and allied officials, who say the jets would be impractical because they require considerable training and Russia has extensive anti-aircraft systems that could easily shoot them down.

When previously asked if the US would be providing F-16s to Ukraine, President Joe Biden responded with a flat “no.”

For our live updates from Monday (March 27), click here.

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