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Ukraine“s Zelenskiy, in The Hague, says Putin must face justice


Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy takes part in a press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (not pictured) Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (not pictured), Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store (not pictured), Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (not pictured) and Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir (not pictured), in Helsinki, Finland May 3, 2023. Essi Lehto/REUTERS

Russian President Vladimir Putin must be brought to justice for his war in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday during a visit to The Hague, where the International Criminal Court (ICC) is based.

The ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for Putin for suspected deportation of children from Ukraine and the European Commission has said another international centre for the prosecution of the crime of aggression in Ukraine would be set up in The Hague.

“We all want to see a different Vladimir here in the Hague, the one who deserves to be sanctioned for his criminal actions here, in the capital of international law,” Zelenskiy said in a speech, referring to Putin.

“I’m sure we will see that happen when we win,” he said, adding: “Whoever brings war must receive judgement.”

Russia, which is not a member of the ICC and rejects its jurisdiction, denies committing atrocities during its conflict with Ukraine, which it terms a “special operation” to “demilitarise” its neighbour.

Earlier in the day, in his first official visit to the Netherlands, Zelenskiy visited the ICC for just under an hour.

As he left, Zelenskiy, dressed in his trademark khaki, waved at a Ukrainian family standing outside the ICC building as they shouted “Slava Ukraini” – or Glory to Ukraine.

The Netherlands has been a strong supporter of Ukraine, with Rutte in February saying he did not rule out any kind of military support for Kyiv as long as it did not bring NATO into conflict with Russia.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in February that an international centre for the prosecution of the crime of aggression in Ukraine would be set up in The Hague.

The ICC can prosecute genocide in Ukraine but has no jurisdiction over alleged crimes of aggression by Russia there.

An act of aggression is defined by the United Nations as the “invasion or attack by the armed forces of a state (on) the territory of another state, or any military occupation”.

Russia has stepped up attacks as Ukraine prepares for a counteroffensive to try to retake Russian-occupied land in the south and east. Russian shelling in the frontline southern region of Kherson killed at least 23 civilians on Wednesday.