Ukraine war: Zelensky visits The Hague as air strikes and explosions hit Kyiv - what Russia said about Putin
Zelensky has visited The Hague to call for Putin to be brought to justice just a day after Russia accused Ukraine of attacking the Kremlin.
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Russia has attacked Ukraine with a wave of drones and missiles, mainly targeting Kyiv, Odesa, and Zaporizhzhia - just one day after it accused the war-torn country of attempting to assassinate its President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has since claimed that the United States was behind the drone strike which reportedly hit Putin’s residence in Moscow, while some war commentators have suggested the attack was internally conducted and purposefully staged by Russia.
Speaking in Finland on Wednesday (3 May), where he met with his Finnish, Swedish, Norweigan, Danish, and Icelandic counterparts, Zelensky denied Ukraine had targeted Russia, commenting: “We don’t attack Putin or Moscow. We fight on our territory. We are defending our villages and cities.”
The most recent air strikes on Ukraine come as Zelensky arrives in the Netherlands, where he will visit the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague - which is currently investigating Russia for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
In March, the ICC also issued arrest warrants for both President Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s children’s ombudsman, over the alleged deportation of children from Ukraine - something Russia has strongly denied. Here are the latest updates.
What has Zelensky said at The Hague?
Speaking at a news conference at The Hague in the Netherlands, Zelensky has said he hopes Putin can be brought to justice.
He said that the Russian President “deserves to be sanctioned for his criminal actions” - and that this should be done “in the capital of international law (The Hague)”. He continued: “I’m sure we will see that happen when we win. Whoever brings war must receive judgement.”
Zelensky claimed that 6,139 war crimes were committed by Russia in the month of April alone - resulting in 207 civilian deaths, 11 of which were children. He argued that a “full-fledged” tribunal must be created to try Russia, adding that “no compromise” will do.
Russia, which is not a member of the ICC and rejects the court’s jurisdiction, has denied committing atrocities during its conflict with Ukraine. Instead, it has termed the war a “special military operation”.
Zelensky is also expected to meet with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during his trip to the Netherlands, with the country’s media reporting that the two are likely to discuss Ukraine’s demands for more military support - namely, long-range weapons and fighter jets.
What air strikes have hit Ukraine?
On Wednesday (3 May), Russian air strikes on Kherson in Ukraine killed 21 people, according to officials. The victims were said to include supermarket customers and employees of an energy company who were performing repairs.
And in the early hours of Thursday (4 May), air raid sirens rang out across Kyiv, Odesa, and Zaporizhzhia, with explosions and loud blasts reported. Ukraine said its defences had shot down more than a dozen drones that morning, although three still struck a university compound. Fortunately, there were no casualties.
Also on Thursday (4 May), a drone hit an oil refinery in southern Russia, setting part of it on fire - the latest in a series of explosions, fires and drone attacks that have occurred in the country in recent weeks.
What did Russia accuse Ukraine of?
Russia claimed Ukraine had carried out a drone attack on Putin’s residence at the Kremlin in Moscow, which it said it considered to be “a planned terrorist act and an attempt on the life of the president of the Russian Federation.”
Russia said its defences had downed two unmanned aerial vehicles, and that fragments of drones had been found scattered in the grounds of the Kremlin. There were no casualties, injuries or damage, it added, and Putin had not been at his residence at the time.
Unverified footage circulating online shows smoke rising over the Kremlin early on Wednesday (3 May). Another video shows a small explosion above one of the site’s building, while two men appear to clamber up the dome.
In a statement, the Kremlin said: “As a result of timely actions taken by the military and special services with the use of radar warfare systems, the devices were put out of action. We regard these actions as a planned terrorist act and an attempt on the president’s life, carried out on the eve of Victory Day, the May 9 Parade, at which the presence of foreign guests is also planned.”
Zelensky refuted the accusation, saying Ukraine only defends its own territory - and does not attack Russia. Russia has since accused the US of being behind the incident, with spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying at a press briefing that the Kremlin “knows that decisions about such terrorist attacks are taken in Washington,” and that Kyiv “just implements these decisions”.
Meanhile, commentators have been discussing who they believe is behind the drone strike. The Institute for the Study of War claimed the reported attack was internally conducted by Russia, arguing it is “extremely unlikely that two drones could have penetrated multiple layers of air defence and detonated or been shot down just over the heart of the Kremlin, in a way that provided spectacular imagery caught nicely on camera”.
“Russia likely staged this attack in an attempt to bring the war home to a Russian domestic audience and set conditions for a wider societal mobilisation,” it added, something echoed by Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat, who said he thought Russia had staged the attack on the Kremlin to try to “show some kind of escalation on the part of Ukraine”.
But other commentators disagreed, saying that Russia would not want to make itself look “weak” or “vulnerable”. They argued that an attack would lead to questions about how well-protected President Putin is - and about the effectiveness of Russian air defences.