Russia-Ukraine war at a glance: what we know on day 387 of the invasion
The international criminal court (ICC) in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin for overseeing the abduction of Ukrainian children. In granting the request for warrants by the ICC prosecutor, a panel of judges agreed there were “reasonable grounds” to believe Putin and his children’s rights commissioner, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, bore responsibility for the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said the ICC arrest warrant for Putin was “meaningless”. “Russia is not a party to the Rome statute of the international criminal court and bears no obligations under it,” she said. The Kremlin said Russia found the very questions raised by the ICC “outrageous and unacceptable” but that any decisions of the court were “null and void” because it did not recognise the court’s jurisdiction.
Sources at the ICC have said they thought it was now “very unlikely” that Putin would travel to any country currently supporting Ukraine. If he did so he risked arrest, they pointed out. They said it was possible Putin would still fly to China which is not a signatory to the Rome statute, the treaty that obliges governments to enforce ICC warrants.
The ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin will probably be portrayed as a point of no return in Russia, where the Kremlin will spin the court’s decision as proof that the west is seeking nothing short of regime change. While Putin has already been preparing his public for a long war, the arrest warrant will for the first time raise the concrete possibility that Russia’s leaders and other prominent supporters of the war could face justice at The Hague if they ever find themselves under arrest.
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 is taking “an order of magnitude less” in fighting where “several thousand” shells a day have been fired by both sides, the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. They added that it was unclear how long the battle for Bakhmut will go on.
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. The prime minister, Eduard Heger, told a news conference that his government was “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. Slovakia grounded its MiG-29s in the summer due to a lack of spare parts and expertise to help maintain them after Russian technicians returned home. Ukraine’s air force continues to use MiG-29s.
Denmark was “open” to the idea of sending fighter jets to Ukraine to help its war effort against the Russian invasion, the Danish defence minister said on Friday, according to the state broadcaster DR. “I won’t rule out that at some point it may be necessary to look at the contribution of fighter jets,” the acting defence minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, said.
The Kremlin said fighter planes supplied to Kyiv would be destroyed and would not change the course of the war.
China and Russia have confirmed that China’s president, Xi Jinping, will make a state visit to Russia on 20-22 March. “During the talks, they will discuss topical issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China,” the Kremlin said. China’s foreign ministry said Xi would be exchanging opinions on international and regional issues with Vladimir Putin, and the objective of the visit was to deepen bilateral trust.
The White House said on Thursday that talks between the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and China’s president would be a “good thing,” but warned Beijing against taking a “one-sided” view of the conflict. There has been no confirmation of a call to Zelenskiy by Xi. However, Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba talked by phone Thursday.
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 said on Friday. 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”, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.
Britain has called on China to use President Xi’s trip to Moscow next week to encourage Putin to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine. A spokesperson for the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “If China wants to play a genuine role in restoring sovereignty to Ukraine, then we would obviously welcome that.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey would start the process of ratifying Finland’s Nato membership bid in parliament after the country took concrete steps to keep its promises. In a news conference on Friday after meetings with his Finnish counterpart, Erdoğan said: “When it comes to fulfilling its pledges in the trilateral memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps.”
Turkey’s willingness to consider ratifying Sweden’s Nato bid would “depend on the solid steps Sweden will take”, Erdoğan said on Friday. His Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinistö, welcomed Turkey’s decision to move on his country’s Nato bid, but also expressed solidarity with Sweden. Niinistö said: “I have a feeling that Finnish Nato membership is not complete without Sweden.”
Sweden remains confident it will join the Nato alliance, foreign minister Tobias Billström has said, despite Turkey’s decision to move foward with ratifying Finland’s Nato application. He 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.”
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”.
On Thursday the Pentagon released a video showing the moments before a Russian fighter crashed into a US Reaper drone after spraying it with jet fuel on Tuesday morning over the Black Sea. The declassified footage shows an Su-27 Flanker jet making two exceptionally close passes of the un-crewed drone, spraying fuel in front of it, a harassment tactic that US experts say has not been seen before.
The Kremlin said a decision on whether to retrieve the downed US Reaper drone from the Black Sea would come from the Russian military. “If they deem it necessary to do that in the Black Sea for our interests and for our security, they will deal with that,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.
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 Kremlin on Friday said Russia was extending the Black Sea grain deal for 60 days, echoing previous statements by the foreign ministry. Ukraine has said the deal, which expires Sunday, must be rolled over in full under the existing terms, which provide for a 120-day extension minimum.
Kyiv’s wartime curfew will be reduced by an hour to boost business, the administration of the Ukrainian capital announced on Friday. The head of Kyiv city administration, Serhiy Popko, said that the new curfew period – starting at midnight instead of 11pm – would increase time for public transport, and that reducing its duration “should help reduce social tension, increase production, create new jobs”.
Germany’s fencing federation has cancelled a women’s foil World Cup event after the sport’s global governing body (FIE) reversed a ban on athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus.
Russia has committed a wide range of war crimes in Ukraine including wilful killings, systematic torture and the deportation of children, according to a report from a UN-backed inquiry published on Thursday. The report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine was released a year to the day after the Russian bombing of a theatre in Ukraine’s south-eastern city of Mariupol which killed hundreds of people. Its head said the team was following the evidence and that there were “some aspects which may raise questions” about possible genocide. Russia dismissed the report.
Denis Pushilin, the Russian-installed leader in occupied Donetsk, told state-owned news agency Tass that he did not see any signs Ukraine was withdrawing from Bakhmut. He is quoted as saying on Thursday: “In Bakhmut, the situation remains complicated, difficult – that is, we do not see that there are any prerequisites there that the enemy is going to simply withdraw units.”
Polish authorities say they have detained nine members of a Russian spy ring who they say were gathering intelligence on weapons supplies to Ukraine and making plans to sabotage the deliveries. Six people have been charged with preparing acts of sabotage and espionage, and charges are being prepared against the other three.
Putin has told his country’s leading billionaires that Russia is facing a “sanctions war”. In an address to Russia’s business elite on Thursday the president urged them to invest in new technology, production facilities and enterprises to help Russia overcome what he said were western attempts to destroy its economy.
At least one person has been killed and two people injured in a blast and fire at a building belonging to Russia’s FSB security service in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, according to officials quoted by Russian news agencies. Video footage showed thick black smoke billowing into the air near residential buildings and a shopping centre in Rostov, the capital of a region that adjoins parts of eastern Ukraine where battles with Russia are raging.