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Ukraine updates: Russia committed 'wide range' of war crimes

March 16, 2023

Russian attacks against civilians in Ukraine amount to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity, but not genocide, a UN-mandated investigative body said in a report. DW has the latest.

Investigators begin the grim task of pulling bodies from a mass grave behind the Church of St. Andrew and All Saints, while assessing evidence of war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine
Investigator is assessing evidence of war crimes in Bucha near KyivImage: Carol Guzy/Zumapress/picture alliance

Russia has committed wide-ranging war crimes in Ukraine such as wilful killings, torture and the deportation of children, a UN-mandated investigative body said in a report published on Thursday.

However, UN investigators found no evidence of genocide. "We have not found that there has been a genocide within Ukraine," Erik Mose, head of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, told journalists, though he added that "we have noted that there are some aspects which may raise questions with respect to that crime ... but we have not yet put in any conclusion here."

The report, based on more than 500 interviews as well as satellite images and visits to detention sites and graves, comes as the International Criminal Court in The Hague is expected to seek the arrest of Russian officials for forcibly deporting children from Ukraine and targeting civilian infrastructure.

This could prove difficult unless Russians are captured in Ukraine, however, as Russia does not tend to abide by extradition requests.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine said that Russian forces have carried out "indiscriminate and disproportionate" attacks on Ukraine, resorted to torture, killed civilians outside of combat and failed to take measures to safeguard the Ukrainian population.

"Russian authorities have committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law and violations of international human rights law, in addition to a wide range of war crimes," the report said.

The report's authors noted a "small number" of apparent violations by Ukrainian forces, including one they said was under criminal investigation by Ukrainian authorities, but reserved the vast majority of their report for allegations against Russia.

Russia did not respond to the inquiry's appeals for information. 

Reckoning Project documents Russian atrocities in Ukraine

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war on Thursday, March 16:

Sweden, UK ink deal to send more artillery to Ukraine

Sweden announced a deal to sell its Archer mobile cannon system to the United Kingdom, allowing London to uphold an earlier pledge to donate its older AS90 artillery system to Ukraine. The Swedish government said in a statement the UK would purchase 14 Archer units.

Britain said the 14 Archer systems would serve as "an interim replacement for the 32 AS90 artillery systems the UK gifted to the Armed Forces of Ukraine." London announced it was sending the AS90 to Ukraine in January.

Stockholm announced in January it would also be sending the Archer system directly to Ukraine without specifying an amount, and on Thursday it said it would send eight pieces.

The Swedish-developed Archer system is a fully-automated howitzer mounted on an all-terrain vehicle, which allows the gun to be remotely operated by the crew sitting in the armored cab.

Rheinmetall still thinking about producing new tank in Ukraine

German weapons maker Rheinmetall plans to bring its Panther main battle tank, unveiled in mid-2022, to series-production readiness within the next 15 months and might produce the vehicle in Ukraine, the company's chief executive said.

Armin Papperger, speaking to journalists on the occasion of the company's annual press conference, repeated his offer to produce the Panther in the war-torn country. Construction of a Panther factory in Ukraine would take 12 to 14 months, he said.

Rheinmetall or a joint venture between Rheinmetall and the Ukrainian government would rent the factory.

Subsequent production of the tank would take more months, so in the end it would take about two years before the facility would be up and running, he said. The plant would be protected by Rheinmetall air defense systems.

Papperger stressed there was no decision to build either on the Ukrainian or the German side. "We assume that this decision will probably be made in the next two months," he said.

According to Rheinmetall, its profits for 2022 rose to €469 million (roughly $500 million), compared to €291 million in fiscal 2021.

UN backs Turkey, Ukraine in call for 120-day grain deal rollover

The United Nations backed Turkey and Ukraine by calling for a 120-day rollover of an agreement allowing the safe export of grain from several Ukrainian Black Sea ports after Russia said it would only extend the pact for 60 days. The pact is scheduled to expire on Saturday.

"For us, the text in the agreement is clear and it calls for a 120-day rollover," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Turkey said on Wednesday that it would continue talks to extend the deal for 120 days rather than 60 days. Ukraine has also said the agreement should be renewed for 120 days.

"The deal is being extended for 60 days," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday, when asked to comment on Dujarric's remarks.

The difference in the Russian and UN interpretation of the duration of the deal "may simply be a display of [the UN's] incompetence," Zakharova, who is not known as Russia's most diplomatic diplomat, said.

China urges Ukraine, Russia to restart peace talks 'as soon as possible'

China's foreign minister urged Kyiv and Moscow to restart peace talks "as soon as possible," saying Beijing fears the conflict "could escalate and get out of control."

Beijing "hopes that all parties will keep calm, exercise restraint, resume peace talks as soon as possible and return to the track of political settlement," Foreign Minister Qin Gang told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in a phone call.

The call was the first official talks between the pair since the Chinese foreign minister took office in December.

Beijing last month published a position paper on Moscow's war in Ukraine, calling for dialogue and seeking to position itself as a neutral mediator.

China's Foreign Ministry said that Qin had reiterated his support for that proposal during the call, saying Beijing had "upheld an objective and just position on the Ukrainian issue, committed itself to promoting peace talks and called on the international community to create conditions for peace talks."

Meanwhile, Kuleba tweeted that he and Qin discussed the "significance of the principle of territorial integrity" for Ukraine in a joint call.

Poland to send Ukraine 4 MiG-29 jets in coming days

Poland will send Ukraine four MiG-29 fighter jets in the coming days, Polish President Andrzej Duda said.

"Firstly, literally within the next few days, we will hand over, as far as I remember, four aircraft to Ukraine in full working order," Duda told a news conference. "The rest are being prepared, serviced."

Poland has been using the fighter jets since 1989 and has 28 of them. Ukraine has been asking the West for fighter jets to beef up its defenses.

Putin urges Russian business elite to invest in face of 'sanctions war'

President Vladimir Putin urged Russia's billionaires and business elite to invest in new technology, production facilities and enterprises to help Russia overcome what he said were Western attempts to destroy its economy.

Putin told the business leaders that Russia was facing a "sanctions war" but was swiftly reorienting its economy towards countries that had not imposed sanctions on Russia, and thanked them for working to help the Russian state.

He also said Russia had so far defied those attempts, and that the Western firms that had decided to stay in Russia rather than flee in a corporate exodus last year had made a smart decision.

Putin was meeting with Russia's leading billionaires in person for the first time since February 24 last year, the day he launched what he called his "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Billionaires Oleg Deripaska, Vladimir Potanin, Alexei Mordashov, German Khan, Viktor Vekselberg, Viktor Rashnikov, Andrei Melnichenko and Dmitry Mazepin — whose interests range from metals and banking to fertilizers — were among those attending, according to images from the gathering.

Fire rips through FSB building in south Russia

A fire tore through offices of the security services in a southern region of Russia bordering Ukraine, the emergency services said, according to Russian news agencies.

Images circulating on social media showed a massive blaze tearing through a building in a built-up urban area with a huge plume of black smoke billowing over the fire.

"Emergency services were dispatched... details are being clarified," the press office of the emergency services in Rostov-on-Don said in comments carried by the state-run TASS news agency.

The Interfax news agency reported that a fire killed one person and injured two people.

There was no immediate comment from authorities about the fire and emergency services were yet to give any explanation how the blaze could have broken out.

Pentagon shows footage of aircraft dumping fuel on US drone

The Pentagon has released footage of what it says is a Russian aircraft conducting an unsafe intercept of a US Air Force surveillance drone in international airspace over the Black Sea.

The 42-second video shows a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said.

The US military said it ditched the MQ-9 Reaper in the sea Tuesday after the Russian fighter jet poured fuel on the unmanned aerial vehicle and then struck its propeller.

Poland says it breaks up Russian spy network

Poland has broken up an espionage network operating in the country, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said.

The spies had hidden cameras on important railway routes, mainly in the southern Podkarpackie region.

"I would like to emphasize the great success achieved by the officers of the Internal Security Agency because the whole spy network has been unraveled," Blaszczak told state broadcaster Polskie Radio 1.

"It was an espionage group, a group of people who were collecting information for those who attacked Ukraine," he added.

Scholz announces more continuous arms deliveries to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced more arms deliveries to Ukraine, in lockstep with other European Union states.

Together with its European partners, Germany will ensure that Ukraine receives weapons and equipment to hold out and defend itself, Scholz said in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, during a government statement on next week's EU summit.

"It is particularly important to quickly provide Ukraine with the necessary ammunition," Scholz said. "At the European Council, we will decide on further measures together with our EU partners to achieve an even better, continuous supply."

In doing so, he said, Germany is prepared to open up its procurement projects to other member states. Germany is already providing substantial arms aid to Ukraine, to help fend off Russia's attack.

The 27 EU leaders are due to discuss issues such as competitiveness and energy, as well as the Russian war in Ukraine, in Brussels next week.

Russian offensive in Vuhledar slows down

The Russian offensive on the eastern Ukrainian town of Vuhledar may have lost pace, the British Ministry of Defence said in its daily update.

It was one of a series of failed Russian attacks in the past three months with heavy losses, according to an update.

The report said the Russian setbacks were due in part to the successful Ukrainian deployment of a system known as the Remote Anti-Armour Mine System (RAAM). This can reportedly scatter anti-tank mines up to 17 kilometers (about 10.5 miles) from the point of launch.

Ukraine dropped them above and behind advancing Russian units in some cases, causing chaos as Moscow's troops withdrew, the British assessment said.

The ministry emphasized that Russia's only notable recent tactical success has been in the Bakhmut sector, which is dominated by Wagner Group mercenary forces — currently engaged in a public feud with the Russian Ministry of Defence.

The report said there was a real possibility that Russia's own defense ministry has been insistent in its drive for success in Vuhledar, partially because it wants its own success to compete with Wagner's achievements.

More DW coverage on the war in Ukraine

The grain export deal struck last July between Russia and Ukraine is due to expire on March 18. Food security experts and organizations say it is essential that the deal is renewed. Has it worked? Read it here.

dh/rc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)