Ukraine updates: Medvedev says Putin arrest would be 'war'
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned that any attempt to arrest Vladimir Putin abroad would be seen as "a declaration of war."
The International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, issued an arrest warrant for Putin last week for war crimes.
"Let's imagine — obviously this situation which will never be realized — but nevertheless lets imagine that it was realized: The current head of the nuclear state went to a territory, say Germany, and was arrested," Medvedev said in a video posted to Telegram late on Wednesday.
"What would that be? It would be a declaration of war on the Russian Federation," he said. "And, in that case, all our assets — all our missiles etc. — would fly to the Bundestag, to the chancellor's office."
Medvedev, who served as Russia's president from 2008 until 2012 and is now deputy chairman of the country's Security Council, has made increasingly hawkish statements about the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia, which is not a party to the ICC, initially called the arrest warrant "null and void."
On Monday, Russia's Investigative Committee opened its criminal investigation in to the ICC's chief prosecutor Karim Khan. It said Khan's actions may have breached two Russian laws relating to accusing an innocent person of a crime, and "preparing an attack on a representative of a foreign state enjoying international protection, in order to complicate international relations."
On Wednesday, the ICC's legislative body condemned "threats" against the tribunal over its warrant.
"The presidency of the assembly regrets these attempts to hinder international efforts to ensure accountability for acts that are prohibited under general international law," it said in a statement.
Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war on Thursday, March 23:
Germany's Baerbock backs ICC over Putin warrant
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has expressed support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) after its decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Hague-based court issued the warrant for Putin last week for allegedly unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children, a war crime.
Speaking with reference to the Russian leader during a news conference in North Macedonia, Baerbock said that "nobody is above the law."
Hungary will not arrest Putin on ICC warrant, says official
Budapest will not implement the warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin if he enters the country, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban's chief of staff said on Thursday.
"Hungary has never proclaimed the ICC statute," Gergely Gulyas said.
He said that detaining Putin would contradict the Hungarian constitution as the country has not incorporated the statute of the ICC into its legal system.
Hungary signed the Rome Statute, which is the basis for the ICC, in 1999 and ratified it in 2001. However, the agreement has not yet been fixed into the Hungarian legal system, according to Gulyas.
Hungary has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine but has refused to send weapons to Ukraine or allow for their transfer over its territory.
Budapest also refused to sign a resolution in support of the ICC warrant against Putin earlier this week. However, the rest of the 26 European nations backed the warrant.
Finland to send mine clearers, but not jets
Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen has said he does not want to send Hornet fighter jets to Ukraine, despite a Ukrainian request.
Kaikkonen told a news conference in Helsinki that he believed Finland, which borders Russia, needs the planes for its own security.
Although the country is replacing its ageing Hornet fleet with F-35 fighters it ordered in 2021, delivery of the first of the new planes is still two to three years away.
However, the defense minister told journalists that Helsinki was sending an extra three modified Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, in addition to three previously sent.
The vehicles, which are equipped with machine guns instead of a cannon, are designed for neutralizing mines and other explosives.
Slovakia hands over MiG-29s to Ukraine
The Slovak Defense Ministry says it has handed over the first four of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to the Ukrainian air force.
The warplanes were flown from Slovakia to Ukraine by Ukrainian pilots with help from the Slovak air force, Ukrainian personnel and others, the ministry said.
It added that it would hand over the remaining planes to the Ukrainian side in the coming weeks. The ministry said it would not provide additional details until the fighters arrive safely in Ukraine.
Slovakia had already grounded its MiGs in the summer due to a lack of spare parts and maintenance expertise. NATO allies Poland and the Czech Republic took over the role of monitoring Slovak air space.
On Wednesday, the Slovak Defense Ministry said the United States offered the country 12 new military helicopters as compensation for the jets.
Poland last week said it would deliver the first four of a dozen MiGs to Ukraine "in the coming days."
Finland's president seals NATO membership legislation
The president of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, has signed a law that would pave the way for the country's bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
Early in March, a large majority of the Finnish Parliament voted in favor of the government's bid for the country to become a part of the military alliance.
The act means that the country has fulfilled its part in implementing national measures for becoming a NATO member.
Now, the country has to wait for Hungary and Turkey to approve its membership application.
Hungary is expected to approve Finland's bid on March 27. Turkey has also signaled that it will vote soon.
The remaining 28 NATO members have already ratified Finland's accession, for which it applied last May, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The Nordic country shares a border that spans over 1,300 kilometers (807 miles) with Russia.
Zelenskyy vows to 'restore everything' on Kherson visit
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the partly Russian-occupied region of Kherson on Thursday, pledging to "rebuild' the area to its former pre-occupation state.
He toured the local infrastructure of the southern region of Kherson and promised to "restore" the regional capital following Russia's withdrawal.
Ukrainian troops recaptured part of the area late last year, leading to a major withdrawal of Russian forces. The eastern bank of the Dnipro river region is still under the control of Russian troops, who regularly shell Kherson city.
"We will restore everything, we will rebuild everything. Just like with every city and village that suffered because of the occupiers," Zelenskyy said.
In a post on Telegram, he said he talked to civilians about the current problems they are facing and their needs.
This is Zelenskyy's second visit outside the capital Kyiv this week. It comes after he met troops around the eastern front line city of Bakhmut on Wednesday.
EU leaders endorse Ukraine ammunition deal
Leaders of the European Union gathered in Brussels on Thursday for the European Council summit, where they formally signed off on a deal to fast-track €2 billion ($2.1 billion) worth of ammunition deliveries to Ukraine.
Lawmakers hope to deliver 1 million rounds of artillery shells to Ukraine this year.
"We will, as always, reaffirm our unwavering commitment to assist Ukraine," Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said in his invitation to the summit.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also attended the summit for a working lunch, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the meeting via video.
Spain's PM Sanchez to meet China's Xi in Beijing
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Thursday that he will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing next week to discuss China's peace plan for Ukraine.
"I think it is important to learn first-hand" what China's position is, Sanchez said. The prime minister made the comments at a European Union leaders' summit in Brussels.
He further noted "it will be the Ukrainians themselves who will establish the condition for the start of that peace, when it arrives."
"Lasting and stable peace" between Russian and the Ukraine can only be achieved with "respect for the territorial integrity (of Ukraine) which was violated by Russia," said Sanchez.
Sanchez will be the second European leader to visit China since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's visit in November 2022.
Spain has offered its unconditional support to Ukraine and will soon send up to 10 Leopard tanks to Kyiv.
China has presented a 12-point position paper on the war which includes a call for dialogue and respect for all the countries' territorial sovereignty.
South African Cabinet to discuss Putin arrest warrant
South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor said on Thursday the ICC's arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin is "obviously a matter for concern."
She confirmed Putin had been invited to the upcoming BRICS summit in Durban in August and said South Africa's Cabinet will meet "to decide exactly how we respond."
South Africa is a party to the ICC and would be expected to execute the arrest warrant if Putin enters the country.
Pandor made the comments on the sidelines of a visit by Belgium's foreign minister, Hadja Lahbib.
"Given your strong historical links with Russia we would be delighted if you consider using your channels of communication to advance on a path towards peace," Lahbib said during her visit.
Ukrainian presidential adviser to DW: EU ammunition needed 'by end of this month'
Ukrainian armed forces need speedy delivery of ammunition promised by the EU to be able to launch a successful counteroffensive, Ihor Zhovka, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, told DW.
"The ammunition is what is badly needed now in order to start the counteroffensive on the ground," he said. "In order to start it, we need enough artillery shells, we need enough armored vehicles and tanks, and that will provide our success."
Zhovka declined to be drawn on whether the counteroffensive was planned for the area around Bakhmut, which has seen fierce fighting in recent weeks.
"We will definitely not reveal where we will start the counteroffensive," Zhovka said. "If you ask me about the Bakhmut area: the Bakhmut area is important for Ukraine, because this is our territory, this is our land; we will not even give away any single inch of Ukrainian territory."
"But let's not ease the task of the aggressor and let's not reveal the plans of the Ukrainian armed forces," he said, saying ammunition was needed to help liberate all the occupied territory.
Zhovka emphasized that military aid needed to be delivered fast to ensure any counteroffensive's success.
"We need it quickly; we need it by the end of this month to start the counteroffensive," he said.
Russia launches military satellite
Russia launched a new military satellite into space on Thursday morning, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Officials said the satellite was "a medium-class Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle carrying a spacecraft for the Russian Defense Ministry" and was "launched from the Plesetsk launch site in Arkhangelsk Region by combat crews of the Space Forces."
Russia regains territory in Luhansk region
Russian forces have made inroads in the north of the Luhansk region of Ukraine, according to an intelligence update released by the British Defense Ministry.
"Russia has partially regained control over the immediate approaches to Kremina town, which was under immediate Ukrainian threat earlier in the year," the British Defense Ministry said.
"In places, Russia has made gains of up to several kilometers."
According to the intelligence update, Russia's likely intent in the north-east of Ukraine nevertheless remains defensive.
"Commanders probably fear this is one of the sectors where Ukraine could attempt major offensive operations," the ministry said.
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zc,aa/es,nm (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)