By Alexandra Sharp
In a rare foreign trip on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to face “true justice.” In a 15-minute speech delivered in The Hague, the Netherlands city that hosts the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Ukrainian president renewed his demand to establish a special tribunal like the Nuremberg trials to try Putin for the crime of aggression, which is when a state’s leader uses armed force “against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State,” as defined by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant in March for Putin and another top Russian official for their role in Russia’s abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children. Part of the official definition of genocide includes “forcibly transferring children of [one] group to another group.” However, the ICC cannot prosecute the crime of aggression itself. “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 the shortcomings of those norms,” Zelensky said. He alleged that Russia committed 6,139 war crimes in April alone—killing 207 Ukrainian civilians, including 11 children. Just the day before Zelensky’s speech, Russian shelling killed 23 Ukrainians in Kherson.
Zelensky’s call for Putin to face justice in a court of law for his crimes was particularly notable at this time, as it comes amid accusations from Moscow that Ukraine tried to assassinate the Russian president in a foiled drone attack on the Kremlin on Wednesday.
The Ukrainian president also discussed his country’s prospects for joining NATO, admitting that Kyiv will likely not join the 31-member bloc while the war with Russia continues. In an address to the Dutch parliament, he asked the international community to continue isolating Russia with aggressive Western sanctions, advocated for NATO to begin planning for a Ukrainian membership bid, and urged NATO allies to send more powerful and longer-range weapons to Kyiv. “I’m grateful to you for the fact that we’ve achieved the greatest unity in Europe, which people only dreamed of for decades,” Zelensky said.
Meanwhile, Moscow continues to hammer Ukrainian cities. Russia fired two dozen combat drones on Thursday, hitting a university campus in Odesa and targeting Kyiv for the third time in four days. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also accused Ukraine of acting on U.S. orders to launch Wednesday’s attempted drone strike on the Kremlin. Peskov did not provide evidence of U.S. involvement, and U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby denied the allegations, saying Peskov was “just lying.”