International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Ukraine

60-kilometre Russian military convoy heads for Kiev

Imagen de satélite ©2022 Maxar Technologies vía AP - This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows a military convoy northwest of Invankiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022

"These are war crimes. They have attacked civilian neighbourhoods, it has been an annihilation of people". This is what the president of Ukraine, Volodomir Zelensky, said after Russia shelled military and civilian buildings in Kharkov. Ukrainian resistance was not enough to prevent Russia from launching a massive bombardment against Kharkov, Ukraine's second largest city and where Russian is the mother tongue of the population, leaving dozens of people dead, including civilians.

Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia in Belarus have been of little use. While representatives of the two countries met to try to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, 900 kilometres away, Russian air forces carried out a massive bombardment that made it impossible to reach a consensus.

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Following this barbarity, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, has announced that he will ask for an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity "committed by any of the parties throughout the territory of Ukraine". 

If approved, this investigation will cover crimes committed in the Crimean peninsula and in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as everything related to "the expansion of the conflict in recent days" in Ukraine. Alongside this he has indicated that the intention of this is to investigate "any new crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of my office and that are committed by any of the parties to the conflict anywhere on the territory of Ukraine".

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Meanwhile a Russian military convoy more than 60 kilometres long is heading towards Kiev, a clear threat to the Ukrainian capital that could increase hostilities over the city. Tonight both Kiev and Khartov were again submerged in the sound of anti-aircraft sirens and in the southern city of Kherson, the Russians opened a new front.

According to the State Service for Communications and Information Protection on its Telegram account, "the assault on Kherson has begun. According to witnesses, the enemy is advancing from the airport to the Nikolaev highway and the ring near the refrigeration plant". The city, located on the shores of the Black Sea, has a population of 300,000 and is another strategic enclave in the Russian offensive.

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However, despite Russia's aggressive offensives, the Russians have made little progress in the last 24 hours in their siege of Kiev, according to the UK. For its part, the British Ministry of Defence has stressed that Russia has not managed to control Ukrainian airspace, which is why it has changed its night-time military operations. 

Despite the difficulties Russia is presenting in taking Ukraine, which is surprising given the military superiority of the Russian armed forces, the Ukrainian Ministry of Health reports 352 civilian deaths since Russia began its invasion, including 14 children and nearly 2,000 wounded. 

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The Ukrainian population is still trying to flee. Thousands are sheltering in bunkers, underground stations or fleeing across borders to safety from Russian bombs. Hospitals have moved underground and supermarkets are beginning to suffer the ravages of the invasion as they start to run out of supplies.

Desperate Ukrainians are lining up at cash machines in order to withdraw money as they are unable to buy any goods with credit cards. Similarly, many decide to stay behind to stand up to the Russians, encouraged by Zelensky's resistance speeches. 
 

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Ukraine is also beginning to count on the support of the European Union after having approved the sending of military arsenal, a measure that had never before been taken within the Union. All this comes in the midst of Zelensky's request to the EU for "immediate accession", a process that is not characterised by its speed. European leaders convey their support to Zelensky, but this does not translate into implicit support for Ukraine's accession to the EU.

On the other hand, in the face of Russia's threats to Sweden and Finland over their NATO membership applications, both continue to reiterate their right to join the Atlantic Treaty. Swedish minister Magdalena Andersson said she wanted to "be very clear: Sweden is the one that chooses its own, independent security line". 

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All this comes amidst repeated nuclear threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin. These, moreover, are being backed up by Belarus, its ally, which has already decided to withdraw its nuclear neutrality. Belarus has allowed both Russian soldiers and military equipment to pass through and is also the country where peace negotiations are being held.

In view of the withdrawal of its nuclear neutrality, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, has expressed his unease and pointed out that 'the removal of the reference in Article 18 to Belarus' non-nuclear status is another worrying element' and strongly condemned 'Belarus' involvement in the current aggression against Ukraine in the strongest possible terms'.
 

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