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Ukraine petitions International Court of Justice against Russia over invasion

President Zelensky says Moscow ‘manipulated notion of genocide’ to justify attack on his country; accuses invading forces of ‘state terrorism,’ claims civilian sites targeted

In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 27, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 27, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday his country has filed a complaint against Russia at the International Court of Justice, and accused Moscow of carrying out state terrorism in its invasion of his country.

Zelensky said that civilian areas were being targeted indiscriminately as Ukrainian forces try to repel the Russian attack in a number of cities, including the capital Kyiv.

“Ukraine has submitted its application against Russia to the ICJ,” Zelensky said on his official Twitter account. “Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression. We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces into Ukraine last week, claiming “genocide” was being committed against Russian-speaking residents of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. With no evidence to back his assertations, the claim was seen by countries supporting Ukraine as a baseless excuse to carry out the expected invasion.

In a video message posted to social media, Zelensky described the situation in his country.

“We are fighting, fighting for our country, fighting for our freedom because we have the right to do that,” he said. “The past night was tough — more shelling, more bombing of residential areas and civilian infrastructure. There is not a single facility in the country that the occupiers wouldn’t consider as admissible targets.”

Huge explosions lit up the sky early Sunday near Kyiv, where terrified residents hunkered down in homes, underground garages and subway stations in anticipation of a full-scale Russian assault.

But Ukrainians also volunteered en masse to help defend the capital and other cities, taking guns distributed by authorities and preparing firebombs to fight the Russian forces.

Members of civil defense prepare Molotov cocktails in a yard in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 27, 2022. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Zelensky denounced Russia’s offensive as “state terrorism.” He said the attacks on Ukrainian cities should be investigated by an international war crimes tribunal and cost Russia its place as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

“Russia has taken the path of evil, and the world should come to depriving it of its UN Security Council seat,” he said, repeating a demand he made the night before when he also accused Russia of “genocide” against Ukrainians.

He dismissed as lies Russia’s claims that it wasn’t targeting civilian areas.

“Today, there is not a single thing in the country that the occupiers do not consider an acceptable target,” Zelensky said Sunday. “They fight against everyone. They fight against all living things — against kindergartens, against residential buildings and even against ambulances.”

Russian forces are “firing rockets and missiles at entire city districts in which there isn’t and never has been any military infrastructure,” Zelensky said.

“Vasylkiv, Kyiv, Chernigiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and many other towns in Ukraine are living in conditions that were last experienced on our lands during World War II,” he said.

Zelensky hailed the assistance Ukraine was receiving from its international allies.

“This is already real. We are receiving weapons, medicine, food, diesel, and money,” he said. “A powerful coalition in support of Ukraine has been formed — an antiwar coalition.”

Russia claims its assault on Ukraine is aimed only at military targets, but bridges, schools and residential neighborhoods also have been hit.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, said Ukraine was gathering evidence of shelling of residential areas, kindergartens and hospitals to submit to an international war crimes court in The Hague as possible crimes against humanity.

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova speaks during a news conference at the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, Feb. 26, 2022. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

On Saturday, Zelensky said that he asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to strip Russia of its vote at the UN Security Council as punishment for invading Ukraine.

“To deprive the aggressor country of the right to vote in the UN Security Council, to qualify Russian actions and statements as genocide of the Ukrainian people, to help with the delivery of corpses of Russian soldiers. Talked about it in a conversation with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter.

Russia is one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council with the right to veto decisions, along with China, France, the UK and the United States.

A resolution written by the United States and Albania condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine failed in the Security Council on Friday, due to Russia applying its permanent member veto power.

Criminal Court monitoring fighting

Ukraine’s health minister reported Saturday that 198 people, including three children, had been killed and more than 1,000 others wounded during Europe’s largest land conflict since World War II. It was unclear whether those figures included both military and civilian casualties.

Earlier, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor put combatants and their commanders on notice that he is monitoring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But Prosecutor Karim Khan acknowledged that he cannot investigate the issue that is being most talked-about at this stage of the invasion — the crime of aggression.

Karim Ahmed Khan, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor, speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Justice in the Khartoum, Sudan, Aug. 12, 2021. (Marwan Ali/AP)

While the global treaty that established the Hague-based court in 2002 has been updated to include the crime of aggression since 2018, Khan said he does not have jurisdiction over that because neither Ukraine nor Russia is among the court’s 123 member states.

Western leaders have widely condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to invade Ukraine. US President Joe Biden on Thursday said the invasion “was always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary,” while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it “Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression.”

The United Nations’ refugee agency said late Saturday that more than 200,000 Ukrainians have arrived in neighboring countries since the invasion started Thursday. The UN has estimated the conflict could produce as many as 4 million refugees, depending how long it continues.

As Russia pushes ahead with its offensive, the West is working to equip the outnumbered Ukrainian forces with weapons and ammunition while punishing Russia with far-reaching sanctions intended to further isolate Moscow.

Putin sent troops into Ukraine after denying for weeks that he intended to do so, all the while building up a force of almost 200,000 troops along the countries’ borders. He claims the West has failed to take seriously Russia’s security concerns about NATO, the Western military alliance that Ukraine aspires to join. But he has also expressed scorn about Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent state.

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