Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hailed the arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "historic decision" by the International Criminal Court.
"The leader of a terrorist state and another Russian official are officially suspects in a war crime," said Zelenskyy in a video message distributed in Kiev. The court in The Hague, Netherlands, issued an arrest warrant for kidnapping children from occupied territories in Ukraine to Russia. The US government also welcomed the step - although it does not recognize the criminal court itself.
Thousands of Ukrainian children were illegally deported, Zelenskyy said. The Ukrainian authorities have registered at least 16,000 cases. "But the true total number of deportees could be much higher," Zelenskyj said. Around 300 children have been brought back to Ukraine so far.
Moscow wants to have brought children to safety
Moscow denies war crimes and stresses that the children were brought to safety before the war - which in Russia can only be called a "military special operation". Ukraine, on the other hand, accuses the Russian aggressor of forcibly "Russifying" the children. "It would be impossible to implement such a criminal operation without the orders of the supreme leader of the terrorist state," said Zelenskyy. He has long complained that children are being robbed of their Ukrainian identity through re-education and indoctrination.
"Separating children from their families, depriving them of any possibility of contact with their loved ones, hiding them on Russian territory, distributing them to distant regions - all this is obviously Russian state policy, they are state decisions, it is state evil ", according to Zelenskyy. The first man in the state is responsible, he said, without naming Putin.
Zelenskyj thanked the team around the chief prosecutor of the court in The Hague, Karim Khan, for the step that made it possible to punish the guilty. Ukraine, in turn, will do everything to bring back the kidnapped girls and boys, said Zelenskyj.
Biden believes arrest warrant justified
US President Joe Biden also described the arrest warrant against Putin as justified. "I think that makes a very strong point," Biden said after an event in Washington on Friday, according to reporters. Putin has clearly committed war crimes. However, the International Criminal Court is not recognized worldwide, "not even by us," added Biden.
In addition to Russia, the USA and China also do not recognize the court. Lawyers often cite the fact that these states want to protect their political leaders and soldiers from judicial access as the reason for this. In total, more than 120 countries have ratified the Rome Statute.
Russian troops invaded Ukraine 13 months ago on Putin's orders. In the spring of 2014, Moscow had already annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and then supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Zelenskyj thanks soldiers and Slovakia
In his video message, Zelenskyy thanked the Ukrainian armed forces for resisting the Russian invasion. At the same time, he pointed out that the defenders destroyed enemy positions near the currently most heavily contested town of Bakhmut in Donetsk region. In addition, the defense in the direction of Bakhmut had been strengthened.
The Battle of Bakhmut is considered the bloodiest of the war to date. Selenskyj had always declared that he wanted to hold the strategically important but now largely destroyed city with a population of once 70,000, because otherwise the Russians could penetrate deeper into Ukraine. Also in the southern direction near Cherson and Zaporizhia, the occupiers suffered noticeable losses through determined resistance.
In addition, Zelenskyj informed about a conversation with the Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger and thanked him for a "new and strong package to support the defense". The delivery of Soviet MiG-29 fighter jets will not only serve the security of Ukraine, but of the whole of Europe.
Slovakian opposition protests against MiG levy
The Slovakian government decided on Friday to hand over its 13 MiG-29 aircraft to Ukraine. The decision sparked outrage among the opposition in the EU and NATO country. With the delivery of combat aircraft, Slovakia itself would be involved in the war, she criticized - and without the participation of Parliament, such a serious foreign policy and military decision should not be made. Previous polls had shown that a clear majority of the population is against the delivery of fighter jets.
What will be important on Saturday
Kremlin chief Putin and the power apparatus in Moscow are officially celebrating the ninth anniversary of the "reunification" of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea with Russia. The 2014 annexation is internationally regarded as a breach of international law. The Ukrainian government has repeatedly emphasized that it aims to liberate Ukrainian territory from Russian occupation.
A specially scheduled Russian celebratory concert in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium to celebrate the anniversary has been canceled according to media reports. The reason for this is the fear of an attack or other incidents. The Russian authorities have nevertheless announced festive highlights - and decorated the Russian capital with festive flags.