Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian president Vladimir Putin must face justice for war crimes during a surprise visit to The Hague on Thursday and initiated a minute’s silence for all those killed in the Ukrainian conflict and the MH17 disaster.
Speaking at The Hague’s World Forum, Zelenskyy said everyone wants to see a different Vladimir in The Hague: ‘the one who deserves to be sentenced for these criminal actions, right here in the capital of international law. And I’m sure we will see that happen when we win, and we will win….’
The Ukrainian president’s visit comes as explosions were heard over Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities and a day after Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out a drone attack on the Kremlin. Zelenskyy responded by Wednesday, telling journalists: ‘We didn’t attack Putin. We leave it to (the) tribunal.’
On Thursday, he visited the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is investigating possible war crimes in Ukraine and has already issued an arrest warrant for Putin for allegedly deporting hundreds of Ukrainian children from Ukraine to Russia. Russia has called the claims outrageous and unacceptable and doesn’t recognise the court.
Ukraine wants a special tribunal set up to try Putin for the crime of aggression, which the ICC doesn’t have jurisdiction over in this case.
Outlining his support for a special tribunal, Zelenskyy said: ‘If we want true justice, we should not look for excuses and should not refer to the shortcomings of the current international law but make bold decisions that will correct that shortcomings that unfortunately exist in international law.’
The new International Centre for the Prosecution of Crimes of Aggression (ICPA), which will document alleged war crimes for any potential future trials, should be up and running by summer.
Zelenskyy later had talks with prime minister Mark Rutte, who he had earlier met in Kyiv in February, and appealed for more military support.
Rutte told a press conference afterwards that the Netherlands is working hard behind the scenes to reach a consensus with its allies on supplying fighter jets to Ukraine.
‘We are working with partners like Belgium and Denmark to bring the debate on supplying F-16s to a conclusion,’ he said. He reiterated that supplying fighter jets to Ukraine is not a taboo subject, but said it is not yet a done deal either.
Referring to the earlier discussion on howitzer artillery weapons and Leopard tanks, Rutte said: ‘It takes time. But the howitzer are on their way.’
After his talks with the prime minister, Zelenskyy met king Willem-Alexander. It was the first time the two have met.
Zelenskyy’s Hague visit comes on the day the Dutch remember their war dead, including 196 MH17 passengers shot down in 2014 over Eastern Ukraine. A Dutch court has already ruled that the missile that brought down the plane was launched from Russian-controlled territory.
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