The International Criminal Court opens a field office in Ukraine to investigate Russia’s war crimes, Raiffeisen is urged to provide a plan for unwinding its Russian business, while Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor and probable candidate for the U.S. presidency, has explained his statement on Ukraine that caused outrage.
Meanwhile, Prince William made a surprise visit to Poland where he spoke with Ukrainian refugees, and Russia failed to deliver on its commitment to deliver weapons to India.
offers a digest of Western mass media at the end of the March 20–24, 2023, business week.
The Hague opens a field office in Ukraine: what the I.C.C. will do here
According to The New York Times, the International Criminal Court will open a field office in Ukraine to facilitate investigations into war crimes and other potential violations of international law.
Ukrainian officials and the court announced the agreement on March 23, a week after the I.C.C. issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children.
Ukraine is not a party to the court but has accepted its jurisdiction for crimes committed in its territory. Ukrainian officials said the office would enable closer cooperation with international prosecutors and help ensure that those responsible for atrocities are held to account under international law.
"This step will allow international justice to be even more active in investigating the crimes of the Russian military on our Ukrainian soil," President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address.
Although last week’s warrant for Putin focused on the unlawful forced transfer of Ukrainian children, prosecutors are investigating an array of potential crimes and charges including the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure.
The court has field offices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, and Georgia. Thus, the Tbilisi office of the I.C.C. investigated crimes during the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia
A blow to Raiffeisen: the bank is urged to unwind its operations in Russia
The European Central Bank is pressing Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International to unwind its highly profitable business in Russia, five people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The pressure comes after a top U.S. sanctions official raised concerns about Raiffeisen's business in Russia on a visit to Vienna last month.
The push from Washington and the ECB is upping the stakes for Austria and its second-biggest bank, which plays a key role in the Russian economy since it accounts for roughly one quarter of euro transfers to the country.
Many Western companies, including French bank Societe Generale, have already left Russia, while other banks, like the Italian UniCredit, still remain.
While the ECB is not asking Raiffeisen to leave the country immediately, it wants a plan of action for unwinding the business. Such a plan could include the sale or closure of its Russian bank.
Raiffeisen, however, does not intend to present such a plan yet, and some Austrian government officials see the moves as unwarranted foreign meddling.
A Raiffeisen spokesperson said that it was examining options for its Russia business "including a carefully managed exit" and that it was "expediting" its assessment, adding that it had also reduced lending in the country.
ECB officials are reluctant to pressure Raiffeisen into an immediate sale, fearing the financial hit it could trigger.
A spokesperson for Austria's finance ministry said that while there could be no return to the status quo in relations with Russia, "most" international companies, including banks remained there.
"There is substantial trade going on between Russia and the rest of the world in commodities like grain, fertilisers, oil, gas, nickel and other metals, which...require payments," said the spokesperson.
In January, the U.S. sanctions authority launched an inquiry into Raiffeisen over potential breaches of Western sanctions. The inquiry, which has strained relations between Vienna and Washington, could prove perilous for Austria, which had modeled itself as a bridge between east and west, turning Vienna into a magnet for Russian money. U.S. authorities can prevent a bank from processing dollar transactions, a step that would deal a serious blow to Raiffeisen.
DeSantis explained his statement on the war in Ukraine
Ron DeSantis, a probable Republican candidate for presidency, has somewhat changed his position on Ukraine, after facing widespread criticism for calling the Russian invasion a "territorial dispute", The Guardian writes.
Speaking to Fox Nation in an interview, the Florida governor said his remark had been "mischaracterized".
"Obviously, Russia invaded — that was wrong," he said. "They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014 — that was wrong."
DeSantis also called Putin a "war criminal" and added:
"I don’t know about that route, but I do think that he should be held accountable."
Regarding his "territorial dispute" remark, the politician said:
"What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now, which is that eastern border region [of the] Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately, but they had. There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there."
He explained that he didn’t believe this war to be "a sufficient interest for the United States" to escalate its active involvement and send American troops.
DeSantis asserted that he believed Ukrainians had all of their territory:
"If I could snap my fingers, I’d give it back to Ukraine 100%. But the reality is what is America’s involvement in terms of escalating with more weapons, and certainly ground troops I think would be a mistake."
Prince William met with Ukrainian refugees in Poland
Prince William met with Ukrainian refugees while in Warsaw on the second day of his surprise trip to Poland and praised them, the BBC reported:
"It's amazing how resilient you are. That shines out."
During a visit to a food hall in Warsaw, the prince speaking to Ukrainians who have fled their home said:
"It must be very difficult to start an entire new life in a new country.
The prince also thanked people who have hosted refugees. Prince William's visit to Poland is at the request of the UK government, but the prince has previously been clear about his support for the people of Ukraine, tweeting his backing days after Russia's invasion.
Earlier, the prince met President Duda at the Presidential Palace where they discussed the war in Ukraine.
Prince William also visited British troops in Rzeszow in south-east Poland. He thanked British troops helping to deliver aid to Ukraine.
Will India be left without Russian weapons?
According to the CNN, Russia is unable to honor its arms delivery commitments to India because of the war in Ukraine, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said, placing a potential strain on New Delhi’s relationship with its largest defense supplier.
An IAF representative told an Indian parliamentary committee that due to the Ukraine war a "major delivery" from Moscow "is not going to take place."
"They have given us in writing that they are not able to deliver it," the representative said.
The biggest ongoing delivery is the S-400 Triumf air defense system units India bought in 2018 for $5.4 billion. Three of these systems have been delivered and two more are awaited, Reuters reported.
IAF also depends on Russia for spares for its Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighter jets, the mainstay of the service branch, according to Reuters.
Russia is the world’s second-largest arms exporter, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
New Delhi has been heavily dependent on the Kremlin for its military equipment since the Cold War — a vital link given the ongoing tensions along India’s shared Himalayan border with China.
The admission by the IAF is "very serious," according to Harsh V. Pant, vice president of studies and foreign policy at the New Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation.
Last September, a U.S. State Department official said Washington was in "deep" talks with India over its reliance on Russian arms and energy.
Russia is no longer a reliable weapons supplier, and Indian representatives are coming to understand that there could be real benefits for them in finding other markets, the official said.