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ICC sends war crimes investigative team to Ukraine

May 17, 2022

The largest-ever group of ICC investigators is being sent to Ukraine on a mission to find evidence that the court in The Hague could use to prosecute war criminals.

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Britain's Karim Khan, visits a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on April 13, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine.
ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan (right in picture) visited Ukraine in April after accusations that Russian troops committed war crimes in BuchaImage: Fadel Senna/AFP
  • Russian parliament to consider ban on exchanging Ukrainian Azov prisoners
  • Finland to apply for NATO membership
  • Ukraine's military says it is evacuating remaining troops from Azovstal steelworks
  • Turkey's concerns over NATO enlargement need to be addressed, Jens Stoltenberg said

These live updates are now closed.

Stoltenberg to meet Finland and Sweden's ambassadors to NATO

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will meet the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden on Wednesday, according to a statement from the military alliance.

The two Nordic countries said they would submit their bids to join NATO together Wednesday.

"I'm happy we have taken the same path and we can do it together," Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Tuesday during a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

Stoltenberg has repeatedly said that the two countries would be welcomed "with open arms," but Turkey has threatened to block the military's alliance's expansion.

Any membership bid must be unanimously approved by NATO's 30 members, including Turkey.

Zelenskyy asks Cannes festival-goers for solidarity

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise video address at the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival.

The former actor turned statesman asked the cinema world's solidarity with his people in the face of the Russian invasion.

"Will cinema keep quiet, or will it speak up? If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, once again, everything depends on our unity. Can cinema stay outside of this unity?"

He spoke about the link between film and reality, referencing films like Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now"and Charlie Chaplin's
"The Great Dictator." 

"In the end, hatred will disappear, and dictators will die," he told the audience, which gave him a standing ovation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks at the opening ceremony during the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival
Zelenskyy made a surprise video address at the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film FestivalImage: David Niviere/abaca/picture alliance

Cannes opened with the French zombie comedy "Final Cut", which changed its name from "Z" after protesters noted that the letter Z has come to symbolize support for Russia's war in Ukraine.

The work of several prominent Ukrainian filmmakers will also be screened during the film festival.

Macron and Zelenskyy discuss weapons deliveries and Ukraine's EU membership application

French President Emmanuel Macron promised his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy more weapons in the days to come.

"He confirmed that arms deliveries by France would continue and would increase in intensity in the days and weeks to come, the same as for the supply of humanitarian equipment," the Elysee Palace said.

In a phone conversation with Zelenskyy, Macron said France was ready to respond to additional demands for help.

The French leader also said the EU members would examine Ukraine's European Union application at a summit in June.

In a post on Twitter, Zelenskyy described the calls as "long and meaningful," adding he raised the issue of fuel supply to Ukraine.

WHO worried about deteriorating health situation in Ukraine

The World Health Organization estimates that at least 3,000 people had died in Ukraine because they couldn't access treatments for chronic diseases since the start of the war.

"Forty percent of households have at least one member in need of chronic treatment that they can no longer find, resulting in an estimated at least 3,000 premature avoidable deaths," Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said.

He said the UN health agency had documented over 200 attacks on healthcare facilities, and few hospitals in Ukraine are currently functioning.

"No health professional should have to deliver healthcare on a knife-edge," Kluge added.

He said sexual violence was also on the rise.

The WHO's Ukraine Incident Manager, Dorit Nitzan, said there was a risk of a cholera outbreak in the Mariupol, which Russian forces now control.

International Criminal Court deploys 42 staffers to Ukraine

The International Criminal Court was sending war crimes investigators to Ukraine in what it called the largest such deployment in its history.

"This represents the largest-ever single field deployment by my office since its establishment," Karim Khan, the ICC chief prosecutor, said.

The 42-member team — which comprises investigators, forensic experts, and support staff — "will significantly enhance the impact of our forensic and investigative actions on the ground," Khan added.

Shortly after the war in Ukraine began in February, Khan announced he was opening an investigation into possible war crimes committed during the conflict.

The team would ensure that "evidence is collected in a manner that strengthens its admissibility in future proceedings'' at the court based in the administrative capital of the Netherlands.

They would chase up leads and collect witness testimony "relevant to military attacks." They would also work with Ukrainian authorities to "strengthen the chain of custody with respect to hard evidence."

Board of German foundation linked to Nord Stream 2 steps down

The board of a foundation linked to the now defunct Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline will resign, the premier of Germany's Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state, Manuela Schwesig, said.

Officially called the Climate Foundation Mecklenburg-Vorpommern or Klimastiftung MV, it was established in January 2021 nominally to support climate change energy producing projects but also supporting schemes linked to the construction of the German-Russian pipeline.

It is now in the process of being disbanded at the order of the state's parliament. To that end, the board of directors will leave their posts when the foundation's business operations wrap up at the end of September. Initially, the body had sought to negotiate with the state in the hope of continuing to operate in some form.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stopped the certification of Nord Stream 2 in February as Russia when Russia recognized breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine. For now the project appears to be on ice indefinitely.

Russian parliament leader against exchange of Ukrainian Azov fighters

Russia's parliament would consider banning a prisoner exchange of certain Ukrainian fighters captured in the port city of Mariupol, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said.

He referred to the captured members of Ukraine's far-right nationalist Azov regiment, considered by Moscow as a neo-Nazi unit. He claimed without evidence that there were "war criminals'' among the plant defenders, and they should not be exchanged but tried.

Russia has repeatedly falsely portrayed the broader war as a battle against Nazism.

Ukraine earlier said 264 fighters from Azovstal were evacuated to Russia-controlled territory, including 53 wounded.

The defense ministry expressed hope of an "exchange procedure... to repatriate these Ukrainian heroes as quickly as possible."

Ukraine's controversial Azov Regiment

Eight killed in an airstrike in Chernihiv

Eight people were killed and 12 wounded in a Russian airstrike on the village of Desna in the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv, the regional emergency service said.

The airstrike took place shortly after Chernihiv region's governor, Viacheslav Chaus, warned residents, "Yes, there are no more occupiers in Chernihiv region but it is easy for them to reach us. Don't ignore air raid warnings!"

Russian troops arrived in the area soon after the war started, but the Ukrainian military managed to retake control of the whole area earlier this month.

Tuesday's airstrikes were seemingly aimed at a military base in the area.

Finland's parliament approves NATO membership application

Finland's parliament has overwhelmingly approved a proposal to join NATO, Speaker Matti Vanhanen said.

Lawmakers voted 188-8 on Tuesday to approve a bid for membership in the military alliance.

President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin had already declared on Sunday that they wanted to submit an application.

Niinisto is now expected to sign a formal application and submit it to NATO with Nordic neighbor Sweden.

You can read the full story here.

Scholz, Zelenskyy discuss Ukraine war, possible new sanctions

The leaders of Germany and Ukraine spoke on Tuesday and agreed that a negotiated peace with Russia is contingent on Moscow ending hostilities and pulling out its troops from Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's spokesperson wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he held "productive talks" with Chancellor Scholz.

"Discussed the situation on the frontline, further pressure on Russia, sanctions increase, the prospects of peace," Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.

EU will support Finland and Sweden's NATO membership — Borrell

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Tuesday that Sweden and Finland joining NATO would strengthen Western military alliances and allow for increased response options when borders are threatened.

Borrell added that the opposite of what Russian President Vladimir Putin actually wanted to achieve is now happening, with two previously neutral countries now joining NATO.

Speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Borrell said he thinks there will be wide support for Sweden and Finland's NATO membership in Europe.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said that Sweden and Finland in NATO will be two "strong partners" that will "enrich" NATO.

On the question of Turkey's opposition to NATO expansion, Borrell and Lambrecht said they were confident that NATO will quell Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's concerns about Sweden and Finland's membership.

Erdogan has accused Sweden and Finland of supporting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey.

The Day with Clare Richardson: Israel's War Aims

Russia carrying out 'indiscriminate' artillery strikes on residential areas — UK intelligence

Russian forces are shelling residential buildings "with minimal regard to discrimination or proportionality," the UK Defense Ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

During Russia's bid to take Kyiv, troops destroyed or damaged thousands of buildings in the region of Chernihiv outside the capital. Some 80% of the damage was sustained by residential buildings, the British Defense Ministry said.

The "increasing reliance on indiscriminate artillery bombardment" is likely due to Russia's unwillingness to fly fighter jets beyond its frontlines, as well as a limited ability to detect and locate targets.

The intelligence report warned that these tactics could become more frequent as Russia pushes its advance in the Donbas region.

UN warns of 'catastrophic' child hunger

More children around the world are at risk for severe malnutrition, as the price of food and life-saving treatment skyrockets, UNICEF warned in a new report on Tuesday.

The effects of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as well as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing damage due to climate change are causing a "spiraling global food crisis," the UN agency warned in a new "Child Alert" report.

"The world is rapidly becoming a virtual tinderbox of preventable child deaths and child suffering from wasting," said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell in a statement.

The number of children suffering from "severe wasting" — the most visible and life-threatening form of malnutrition — was already on the rise before the war in Ukraine interrupted global grain deliveries. Currently, there are 13.5 million children under the age of five who suffering from severe wasting.

At least 2 in 3 children who are severely malnourished do not have access to ready-to-use therapeutic food, according to UNICEF.

The UN body urged for governments to substantially increase their aid to help children in 23 "high burden" countries, and for funding to address the "immediate" needs of children.

Ukraine cedes control of Azovstal plant to Russia

Ukraine's military said it was working to evacuate all remaining troops from the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.

"The 'Mariupol' garrison has fulfilled its combat mission," the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in a statement on Facebook.

"The supreme military command ordered the commanders of the units stationed at Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel... Defenders of Mariupol are the heroes of our time."

More than 260 troops left the plant for Russian-controlled areas late on Monday. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said 53 injured troops were taken to a hospital in the town of Novoazovsk, which is under Russian control.

The Russian military, however, said that the garrison had surrendered and that it had captured 265 troops. 

"In the past 24 hours, 265 fighters, including 51 seriously wounded, have laid down their weapons and were taken into captivity," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Tuesday. 

The Russian ministry published a video showing medical treatment being administered to Ukrainians and the injured being taken away. 

The rest of Mariupol is already under Russian control. The city had been under Russian siege since the start of the war.

Civilians were evacuated from the plant in recent weeks, and Deputy Defense Minister Maliar said that the fighters defending Mariupol had given Kyiv critically important time to build up reserves and regroup forces. She added that the most important thing now was to save the lives of remaining fighters.

Ukrainian soldier lies on a stretcher surrounded by Russian military escort
53 injured Ukrainian troops have been evacuated from Mariupol to Novoazovsk, near Ukraine's border with RussiaImage: Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS

Echoing Maliar's comments, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that Ukraine needs its "heroes" alive.

"We hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys," Zelenskyy said. "There are severely wounded ones among them. They're receiving care."

Japan values Sweden's NATO decision

Japan respects Sweden's "serious decision" to apply for NATO membership, Tokyo's chief government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Russia's military aggression against Ukraine is affecting not only Europe but also the Indo-Pacific region, Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno added.

Turkish concerns over NATO enlargement need to be addressed — Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkish concerns over Finland and Sweden's possible membership in the alliance need to be taken into account.

Stoltenberg made the comments following a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

"Turkey is a valued ally and any security concerns need to be addressed," Stoltenberg tweeted on Monday.

Turkey has said it will only accept the two Nordic countries' membership if certain conditions are met. Ankara has accused Finland and Sweden of supporting the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) and the associated YPG militia active primarily in northeastern Syria, groups it classifies as "terrorist organizations."

Explosions reported in Lviv

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv has reportedly been hit by at least eight explosions.

The explosions occurred shortly after midnight local time (2100 GMT). Lviv is under curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time.

Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said on Telegram that "according to preliminary information, air defenses worked."

The city's mayor, Andriy Sadovyy, said that there was no confirmed information about missiles hitting the city.

"Let's thank those who protect our sky for this!" Sadovyy said. "In the morning we will give more accurate information. Take care of yourself and do not ignore air alarms!"

Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Monday

Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said that "at least 10 civilians" had been killed in Russian shelling in the city of Sievierodonetsk. Previously, Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said that nine civilians were killed and six injured in Russian attacks.

The president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said that there was a "double standard" in the treatment of migrants from different countries who come to Europe.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he sees no sign of an imminent end to the war in Ukraine.

The Russian Ministry of Defense that it had reached an agreement for injured Ukrainian soldiers stuck in the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol to be evacuated to the nearby town of Novoazovsk.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that any expansion of military infrastructure on the territory of Sweden and Finland, should they end up joining the NATO alliance, would require a reaction from Moscow.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has replaced the head of the Territorial Defense Forces, Yuriy Halushkin, with Major General Ihor Tantsiura, the defense ministry said.

McDonald's announced that it will be completely exiting Russia and selling its business in the country to a local buyer.

Catch up on yesterday's events by clicking here

lo, rs, sdi/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)