ICC issues arrest warrant for Putin over war crimes in Ukraine
The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, including his alleged involvement in the abductions of children from Ukraine. Russia is not party to the Rome Statute of the ICC and immediately dismissed the warrant as legally baseless. Ukraine, on the other hand, hailed a “historic” step to secure justice. Read about the day’s events as they unfolded on our liveblog. All times Paris time (GMT+1).
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9:53pm: Zelensky hails ICC move, blames Putin for child deportations
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant against President Vladimir Putin was historic and blamed the Russian leader for the deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children.
"This is an historic decision which will lead to historic accountability," he said in his nightly video address. The real number of deported children could be "far more" than 16,000, he said, adding that their deportations constituted a policy of "state evil which starts precisely with the top official of this state."
8:44pm: ‘First time’ leader of a UN Security Council permanent member is charged: ICC prosecutor
In an interview with FRANCE 24 after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan said it was an important day for international justice. The warrant marked “the first time ever that a head of state from a P5 has been charged” by the international court, said Khan referring to the UN Security Council’s permanent five members.
7:14pm: No one should escape justice, says France
Welcoming the ICC arrest warrant for Putin, the French government has said "no one should escape justice".
In a statement released on the FranceDiplomatie Twitter account, the foreign ministry said, "No one responsible for crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, regardless of their status, should escape justice."
7:08pm: Putin should be ‘careful how he routes his plane’ after ICC warrant
Reporting from Amsterdam, FRANCE 24’s Fernande van Tets says reports had been swirling for a few days that the first ICC arrest warrants over the Ukraine war were ready to be issued. But the high-level target of the warrant was “a bit of a surprise” she said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Enforcement of the warrant however could be a challenge, said van Tets. “Russia is not even a member of the court, it’s up to the member countries to enforce them,” she noted. “Putin wasn’t exactly jetting around to member states who would enforce this, but it could limit his movement, his travel. He’ll have to stick to allies more, and he’ll have to be careful how he routes his plan in the future.”
6:45pm: Sweden disappointed Turkey not acting on its NATO bid
Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom has said he regretted Turkey's decision to hold off moving forward on his country's NATO bid, while pushing ahead with that of Finland.
"This is a development that we did not want, but that we were prepared for," Billstrom told journalists, adding that the country's priority was now securing ratifications from the two holdouts – Turkey and Hungary.
Following months of delays, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Friday that he was asking parliament to vote on Finland's bid to join the NATO defence bloc.
However, he said he was still not ready to move forward on Sweden, which submitted its bid together with Finland in May of last year.
5:25pm: Ukraine hails 'historic' ICC warrant for Putin
Ukrainian officials have hailed the decision by the ICC to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the "unlawful deportation" of Ukrainian children.
"The world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable," Ukraine's Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said on social media.
"This is a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire system of international law," Kostin added.
5:12pm:Russia ex-leader compares Putin warrant to toilet paper
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has compared the ICC's arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin to toilet paper.
"The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin. No need to explain WHERE this paper should be used," Medvedev said on Twitter, adding a toilet paper emoji.
5:03pm: Russia says ICC warrant for Putin is meaningless
Moscow has dismissed the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on social media.
"Possible 'recipes' for arrest coming from the international court will be legally void as far as we are concerned," she added without referring to Putin by name.
4:15pm: ICC judges issue arrest warrant against Putin over alleged war crimes
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of being responsible for war crimes committed in Ukraine.
The court said in a statement that Putin “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
It also issued a warrant Friday for the arrest for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation on similar allegations.
Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations of atrocities during its one-year invasion of its neighbour.
4:10pm: Finland welcomes Turkey’s plans for NATO ratification
Responding to Erdogan’s announcement, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto welcomed Turkey's plan to start the NATO ratification process.
"We understood earlier on that you have done your decision and signing it today confirms that the Turkish parliament starts to work with ratification of Finnish membership," Niinisto told a joint news conference with Erdogan.
"It is surely, for whole Finland, very important," Niinisto said.
3:41pm: Erdogan gives green light to start process to ratify Finland’s NATO
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Finland’s NATO accession protocol will be submitted to the Turkish parliament.
“This will be good news. With the accession of Finland, NATO will become even stronger,” said Erdogan, speaking at a joint press conference in Ankara with Finland's visiting President Sauli Niinisto.
Erdogan said Turkey will continue discussions with Sweden on "terrorism-related" issues and that Sweden's NATO membership bid would depend on "tangible steps" taken by Sweden to address Turkey's security concerns.
3:15pm: Hungarian parliament set to vote on Nordic NATO bids on March 27
Hungary's parliament is expected to vote on the ratification of Finland and Sweden's NATO membership on March 27, the ruling Fidesz party's parliamentary group press office has told Reuters.
The announcement came as Finland's President Sauli Niinisto arrived in Ankara for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Finland and Sweden sought membership after Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year. While most member states have given the applications the green light, Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify them.
3:08pm: Kremlin praises China's 'restrained' position on Ukraine
The Kremlin has praised China's "restrained" position on Ukraine ahead of next week's summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's leader Xi Jinping.
"Of course, the Ukraine conflict will be discussed. We highly value the restrained, considered position of the Chinese leadership on this issue," the Kremlin's foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies.
China’s refusal to condemn Russia while denouncing Western sanctions and accusing NATO and the US of provoking Putin's military action has irked Washington as it competes with Beijing for influence.
2:48pm: Finland's president holds talks with Erdogan on NATO bid
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is meeting his Finnish counterpart in Ankara, raising hopes that the talks will lead to Turkey's approval of Finland’s NATO membership bid.
Despite the rain, Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Erdogan reviewed military honor guard at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital’s Bestepe district.
The talks in Ankara will focus on Helsinki’s application to join the military alliance.
Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in May last year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, abandoning decades of nonalignment.
The expansion of the 30-nation bloc has been held up by Turkey and Hungary, the only two countries not to have yet ratified the Nordic states’ bids, which the parliaments of each NATO member must approve
1:51pm: Xi Jinping and Putin to discuss Ukraine conflict, Russia says
Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov said on Friday that President Vladimir Putin will discuss the Ukraine conflict with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during Xi's state visit to Moscow next week, the Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported.
Ushakov said Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu would take part in talks with Xi, and that "military-technical cooperation" would be discussed during the visit, according to RIA.
FRANCE 24's correspondent Yena Lee reporting from Beijing, China has more on this upcoming meeting.
13:40pm: UK calls on China to encourage Russia to withdraw troops
Chinese President Xi Jinping should use a trip to Moscow to encourage President Vladimir Putin to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine, a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Friday.
"If China wants to play a genuine role in restoring sovereignty to Ukraine, then we would obviously welcome that," the spokesperson told reporters.
"We're clear that any peace deal which is not predicated on Ukraine's sovereignty and self determination is not a peace deal at all. So we will continue to call on China, as we have done before, to join other countries across the world in calling on Putin to withdraw his troops."
1:15pm: EU draft plan shows backing for 1 million artillery shells for Ukraine, says media report
The European Council will welcome a plan to provide 1 million artillery shells to help Ukraine fight Russia's invasion at an EU summit next week, according to a draft of the conclusions seen by the German daily Handelsblatt on Friday.
The wording of the passage, which calls for facilitating the immediate provision of ammunition to Ukraine, including through joint procurement, could still change before the summit begins on Thursday, reported Handelsblatt.
12:01am: Russia threatens to destroy fighter jets given to Ukraine by NATO members
Russia said on Friday that all fighter jets supplied to Ukraine by Western nations would be destroyed after NATO members Poland and Slovakia pledged to send MiG-29 jets to Kyiv.
Since Russia's invasion last year NATO countries have sent billions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine, as Kyiv asks for weapons it says are vital to fend off Russian advances.
Moscow has accused the West of directly participating in the conflict through supplying weapons to Ukraine, and has warned before that NATO weapons were legitimate targets for its forces.
"In the course of the special military operation all this equipment will be subject to destruction," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "It feels like all of these countries are thus engaged in the disposal of old unnecessary equipment."
11:48am: Black Sea grain deal ongoing, UN says
The United Nations Office in Geneva said on Friday that discussions on the renewal of a deal allowing the safe export of grain from Ukraine's Black Sea ports were ongoing.
The Black Sea grain initiative, brokered between Russia and Ukraine by the United Nations and Turkey last July, aimed to prevent a global food crisis by allowing Ukrainian grain blockaded by Russia's invasion to be safely exported from three Ukrainian ports.
The pact expires on Saturday.
11:25am: Russia accuses Ukraine of attacking the Orthodox Church
The Kremlin said on Friday that Ukraine was "illegally attacking" the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) – which until recently accepted the authority of the patriarch of Moscow – adding that this confirmed the need for its "special military operation".
Ukrainian officials last week ordered the UOC to leave the monastery complex in Kyiv where it is based, drawing fierce condemnatation from Moscow.
11:13am: Russia says fighter jets would make no difference to war
The Kremlin said on Friday, in response to eastern European countries transferring fighter planes to Ukraine, that the planes would be destroyed and would not make a difference to the course of the conflict.
10:28am: Slovakia to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine
Slovakia’s government on Friday approved a plan to give Ukraine its fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the second NATO member country to heed the Ukrainian government's pleas for warplanes to help defend against Russia's invasion.
Announcing the decision, Prime Minister Eduard Heger told a news conference that his government is “on the right side of history.” Earlier, Heger tweeted that military aid was key to ensuring Ukraine can defend itself and all of Europe against Russia.
Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said Slovakia will receive 200 million euros ($213 million) from the European Union as compensation and unspecified arms from the United States worth 700 million euros ($745 million).
In light of the absence of its own aircraft, Slovakia’s fellow NATO members Poland and the Czech Republic have stepped up to monitor Slovak air space, with Hungary set to join later this year.
Bratislava has signed a deal to buy 14 U.S. F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jets, but delivery has been pushed back two years to early 2024.
10:00am: Russian defence ministry decorates pilots for downing US drone
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu presented pilots with awards for preventing a US drone from entering the area of Russia's military campaign in Ukraine, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported on Friday.
The drone crashed into the Black Sea on Tuesday after being intercepted by Russian jets.
9:15am: Xi Jinping to visit Russia early next week
Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Russia next week, Beijing's foreign ministry said Friday, his first trip to Moscow in nearly four years.
"At the invitation of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22," the ministry said in a statement.
Xi last visited Russia in 2019, though Putin attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing last year and the two leaders also met at a regional security gathering in Uzbekistan in September.
The pair will talk about "strategic cooperation", according to a near-simultaneous statement from the Kremlin.
The two leaders "will discuss deepening the exhaustive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China", including on the international stage, the Kremlin said, adding, "important bilateral documents will be signed".
6:00am: Poland to be first NATO member to give Ukraine fighter jets
Poland said Thursday it plans to give Ukraine about a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets, which would make it the first NATO member to fulfill Kyiv's increasingly urgent requests for warplanes to defend itself against the Russian invasion.
Warsaw will hand over four of the Soviet-made warplanes “within the next few days,” President Andrzej Duda said, and the rest needed servicing but would be supplied later. The Polish word he used to describe the total number can mean between 11 and 19.
“They are in the last years of their functioning, but they are in good working condition,” Duda said.
He did not say whether other countries would follow suit, although Slovakia has said it would send its own disused MiGs to Ukraine. Poland also was the first NATO nation to provide Ukraine with German-made Leopard 2 tanks.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)