EU condemns Russian 'war crimes' in Ukraine

A woman reacts while speaking near a block of flats destroyed by shelling, in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, on March 17, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union condemns the "serious violations and war crimes" committed by Russia in Ukraine, the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday (March 17).

"The European Union condemns in the strongest possible terms the Russian Armed Forces and their proxies' continued targeting of Ukraine's civilian population and civilian infrastructure, as well as their siege of the city of Mariupol," Borrell said in a statement.

Ukraine has accused Russia of bombing a theatre in the eastern city Mariupol where hundreds were taking shelter, despite a sign saying "children" in Russian - etched out in the ground on either side of the building.

Mariupol's city hall said on Telegram that "around 30,000 people have left on their transport", adding that "80 per cent of residential housing was destroyed".

It said it was "clarifying information on victims" of the theatre shelling.

"Such deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are shameful, reprehensible and totally unacceptable. They constitute serious violations of international humanitarian law," Borrell said.

Russia has no right under international law to use unilateral force on a third country and "thus bears full responsibility for these acts of military aggression and all the destruction and loss of life it causes", the EU's top diplomat said.

"The perpetrators of these serious violations and war crimes, as well as the responsible government officials and military leaders will be held accountable," he promised.

Earlier on Thursday, Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov called on EU lawmakers to recognise Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "war criminal" and urged the bloc to step up arms supplies to fight Moscow's forces.

The demand came after US President Joe Biden on Wednesday sparked Kremlin fury by dubbing the Russian leader a "war criminal" for his forces' bombings of Ukrainian cities.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has opened an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine.

Borrell on Thursday also called on Russia to establish "unhindered humanitarian access to Ukraine".

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