The US president, Joe Biden, has backed the international criminal court’s (ICC’s) decision to issue an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin and said the Russian president had “clearly committed war crimes”. Biden said on Friday of the warrant: “Well, I think it’s justified. But the question is – it’s not recognised internationally by us either. But I think it makes a very strong point.”
Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the ICC’s “historic” decision to issue an arrest warrant for Putin. Ukraine’s president said on social media: “A historic decision from which historic responsibility will begin.”
The ICC in The Hague earlier on Friday issued the arrest warrant for Putin for overseeing the abduction of Ukrainian children. In granting the request for warrants by the ICC prosecutor, a panel of judges agreed that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe the Russian president and his children’s rights commissioner, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, bore responsibility for the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children. The warrants are the first to be issued by the ICC for crimes committed in the Ukraine war.
Moscow said the ICC arrest warrant was “meaningless” and legally “void”. “Russia is not a party to the Rome statute of the international criminal court and bears no obligations under it,” Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said. The Kremlin said Russia found the very questions raised by the ICC “outrageous” but that any decisions of the court were “null and void” because it did not recognise the court’s jurisdiction.
ICC sources said they thought it was now “very unlikely” Putin would travel to any country currently supporting Ukraine, and that if he did so he risked arrest
The Kremlin is likely to spin the ICC’s arrest warrant as proof that the west is seeking nothing short of regime change in Russia.
China’s President Xi Jinping is to visit Russia next week in an apparent show of support for Vladimir Putin. During the visit, scheduled for 20-22 March, the two leaders would sign “important” bilateral documents and discuss issues of further development of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Moscow and Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry has said.
The US has deep concerns that China could try to position itself as a peacemaker in the war in Ukraine by promoting a ceasefire, the White House has said. A ceasefire in Ukraine would “in effect recognise Russia’s gains and its attempt to conquer its neighbour’s territory by force, allowing Russian troops to continue to occupy sovereign Ukrainian territory”, said the White House national security spokesperson, John Kirby.
Russia is sustaining up to 1,500 casualties a day in its current offensive, mostly in the eastern city of Bakhmut, according to a senior Nato official. Ukraine was taking “an order of magnitude less” in fighting where “several thousand” shells a day have been fired by both sides, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey would start the process of ratifying Finland’s Nato membership bid in parliament after Helsinki took “authentic and concrete steps” to keep its promises in a trilateral agreement. He also said Turkey’s willingness to consider ratifying Sweden’s Nato bid would “depend on the solid steps Sweden will take”.
Sweden remained confident it would join Nato, the foreign minister said. Tobias Billström said separate ratification of Finland and Sweden’s bids by Ankara was “a development that we didn’t want but it’s something that we’re prepared for”.
Slovakia will donate 13 MiG-29 warplanes to Ukraine, its prime minister has said. Eduard Heger told a news conference his government was “on the right side of history” as Slovakia became the second Nato member to announce such a shipment in 24 hours, after a similar move by Poland. The Kremlin said the promised planes were another example of Nato members “raising the level of their direct involvement in the conflict”, adding that “all this equipment will be subject to destruction”.
Talks are in progress on the renewal of an agreement allowing the safe export of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, the UN’s office in Geneva has said. The Black Sea grain initiative, brokered between Russia and Ukraine by the UN and Turkey last July, is due to expire on Saturday. The UN, Ukraine and Turkey have called for a 120-day rollover of the agreement. Russia has said the deal should be renewed for only 60 days.
Russia’s defence secretary, Sergei Shoigu, has presented state awards to the pilots of the Su-27 planes involved in the drone incident over the Black Sea for “preventing the violation of the borders of the special operation area by the American MQ-9 Reaper drone”.
Moldova’s president has said she sees no danger of war in her countries while Ukraine continues to dig in against Russia. “The Russian army cannot get here while Ukraine holds out – and [therefore] protects Moldova,” Maia Sandu told the Moldovan parliament.
Kyiv’s wartime curfew will be reduced by an hour to boost business. The head of Kyiv city administration, Serhiy Popko, said the new curfew period – starting at midnight instead of 11pm – would increase the time for public transport and that reducing its duration “should help reduce social tension, increase production, create new jobs”.