| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

Biden says Putin war crime charge justified

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to issue an arrest warrant for him was justified, said US President Joe Biden, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin has clearly committed war crimes.

The ICC earlier on Friday called for Putin’s arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from Ukraine to Russia since Moscow’s invasion began of its neighbor last year. The United States is not a member of the ICC.

“He’s clearly committed war crimes,” Biden told reporters, referring to Putin.

“Well, I think it’s justified,” Biden added, referring to the warrant. “But the question is: it’s not recognized internationally by us either. But I think it makes a very strong point.”

The United States separately has concluded that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine and supports accountability for perpetrators of war crimes, a State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities (in) Ukraine, and we have been clear that those responsible must be held accountable,” the spokesperson added. “This was a decision the ICC prosecutor reached independently based on the facts before him.”

The ICC move would require the court’s 123 member states to arrest Putin and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory. The ICC also issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, on the same charges.
Widespread Russian attacks continued in Ukraine following the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights.

Ukraine was attacked by 16 Russian drones on Friday night, the Ukrainian Air Force said in the early hours of Saturday. Writing on Telegram, the air force command said that 11 out of 16 drones were shot down “in the central, western and eastern regions.”

Among areas targeted were the capital, Kyiv, and the western Lviv province. The head of the Kyiv city administration, Serhii Popko, said Ukrainian air defenses shot down all drones heading for the Ukrainian capital, while Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyi said three of six drones were shot down, with the other three hitting a district bordering Poland.

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, the attacks were carried out from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov and Russia’s Bryansk province, which borders Ukraine.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair rejected comparisons between the US-led invasion of Iraq, which Blair backed, nearly 20 years ago and Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine.
He said then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had brutalized his own people, engaged in two wars in violation of international law and used chemical weapons to kill 12,000 people in a single day.

He said the coalition forces that went into Iraq and toppled Hussein could not be equated with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which is “a country that has a democratically elected president who, to my knowledge, has never started a regional conflict or committed any aggression against its neighbours.”

A coalition of countries — led by the United States and allies like Britain — attacked Iraq starting on March 20, 2003, with the aim of removing Hussein from power. The goal was soon achieved but the country quickly sank into a spiral of violence.
The Russian authorities are likely preparing to facilitate wider military conscription to resource its military requirements, the British Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

“On 13 March 2023, Russian Duma deputies introduced a bill to change the age bracket for conscription to men aged 21-30 years, from the current 18-27. The law is likely to be passed, and would come into force in January 2024,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.

The ministry reminded that Russia has continued to run conscription call-up cycles twice a year since Soviet times and that they are distinct from the exceptional ‘partial mobilisation’ of veterans carried out since September 2022.

Russia continues to officially bar conscripts from operations in Ukraine, though at least hundreds have probably served through administrative mix ups or after being coerced to sign contracts, according to the update.

Many 18-21 year old men currently claim exemption from the draft due to being in higher education, the British ministry said. So, the authorities are highly likely changing the age bracket to bolster troop numbers by ensuring that students are eventually forced to serve.

Even if Russia continues to refrain from deploying conscripts in the war, extra conscripts will free up a greater proportion of professional soldiers to fight, the update said.

Top US, Ukrainian defense officials dicuss military aid in call
Three senior US security officials held a video call with a group of their Ukrainian counterparts to discuss military aid to Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff said.

“We discussed the further provision of necessary assistance to our country, in particular vehicles, weapons and ammunition,” Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram.

He added that Zelenskyy had joined the meeting at the end to give his views on the liberation of Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.

Turkey is hoping that a grain export deal between Kyiv and Moscow key to alleviating a global food crisis can be extended for another 120 days. The current deal expires just before midnight on Saturday, Istanbul time.

“The deadline is approaching,” Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday. “We are in touch with both Ukraine and Russia about extending the agreement under its original terms.”

The original terms Akar referred to were for the 120-day extensions to be automatically renewed for the same period unless one of the parties says otherwise. But on Monday, after a meeting with senior UN officials in Geneva, Moscow announced a proposal to extend the agreement for only 60 days.

Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 saw Ukraine’s Black Sea ports blocked by warships. But a deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022 has allowed for the safe passage of exports of critical grain supplies.

The United Nations is “doing everything possible” to ensure the Black Sea grain deal continues, aid chief Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council on Friday.
The International Monetary Fund said its executive board on Friday approved rule changes that would allow the IMF to approve new loan programs for countries facing “exceptionally high uncertainty.” This move is expected to pave the way for a new Ukraine loan program.

The changes to the IMF’s financing assurances policy would apply to countries experiencing “exogenous shocks that are beyond the control of country authorities and the reach of their economic policies,” the IMF said in a statement.

Ukraine, which has been battling a Russian invasion for more than a year, is seeking an IMF financing package of around $15 billion.

But the Fund’s rules designed to deal with country economic crises did not allow for non-emergency loans to countries facing such massive uncertainties, such as from major wars or multi-year natural disasters induced by climate change.

The IMF said the rule revisions would address key barriers to such loans by allowing official bilateral creditors and donors to provide upfront assurances about repayment to the IMF and delivering debt relief to the borrowing country.

The IMF statement did not mention Ukraine specifically, but the rule changes have been designed alongside negotiations with authorities in Kyiv over new financing.

  • DW