By: Michiel Willems for City AM - Thursday 03 March 2022
A picture shows damages after the shelling by Russian forces of Constitution Square in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-biggest city
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague said early this morning it has opened an investigation after 38 countries, including the UK, referred Russia over what the Prime Minister described as “abhorrent” attacks.
The move came as Ukraine’s capital Kyiv braced for a siege while its second-largest city Kharkiv is reeling from strikes this morning and the control of port city Kherson was contested by the Russian military.
While according to the UN refugee agency, one million people have now fled Ukraine – making it the swiftest exodus of refugees this century.
The tally from UNHCR amounts to more than 2 per cent of Ukraine’s population on the move in under a week. The World Bank counted the country’s population at 44 million at the end of 2020.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said work would begin “immediately”, with his team already collecting evidence, after the co-ordinated referral freed him to get to work without the need for judicial approval.
UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the Russian president he “cannot commit these horrific acts with impunity”.
A second round of talks aimed at ending the fighting was expected on Thursday, but there were little hopes of a breakthrough.
Key developments this morning
The European Union announced that seven Russian banks were being excluded from the Swift system which allows fast and efficient interbank transactions.
Ukrainian ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko was given a standing ovation by MPs in the Common
The Russian defence ministry claimed that Kherson, in the south of Ukraine near the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, was under the “complete control” of Russian soldiers – but the Ukrainian military disputed this.
The price of oil continued to soar, reaching 112 dollars per barrel, the highest since 2014.
The lack of progress in meeting the aims of the invasion had led to a change in tactics, focusing on aerial and artillery bombardment of cities rather than the kind of lightning military advances originally envisaged by the Kremlin, Western analysts believe.
Strikes in Kyiv
Strikes that damaged the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial in Kyiv and the central square in Kharkiv have caused revulsion, and Western allies fear it is a sign of a shift in Russian tactics further towards the indiscriminate targeting of urban areas.