March 18, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Sophie Tanno, Adrienne Vogt, Tori B. Powell and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 6:04 PM ET, Sat March 18, 2023
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8:29 a.m. ET, March 18, 2023

If you are just joining us, here's what you need to know about the ICC's case against Putin

Welcome to our coverage of the conflict in Ukraine. If you are just joining us, here is a recap of our main news –  the International Criminal Court issuing an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • The ICC accuses Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova of allegedly deporting Ukrainian children to Russia – a practice the Russian government has defended as saving them while denying that the deportations are forced.
  • The Kremlin on Friday rejected the arrest warrants as “unacceptable,” arguing that it is not subject to the ICC’s decisions.
  • Putin is unlikely to appear before the court as the ICC does not conduct trials in absentia. Russian officials charged would either have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside of Russia.
  • But speaking to CNN, Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said it could still happen, pointing to the trials of former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milošević, and former Liberian leader Charles Taylor.
  • Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, dismissed the ICC’s arrest warrant against her on Friday, saying it was “great” that the international community recognized her work removing children from war zones, Russian state news agency TASS reported.
  • US President Joe Biden welcomed the move, saying Putin "clearly committed war crimes."
9:12 a.m. ET, March 18, 2023

US will keep helping Ukraine document war crimes, White House official says

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

A man pushes his bike through debris and destroyed Russian military vehicles on April 6, 2022, in Bucha, Ukraine.
A man pushes his bike through debris and destroyed Russian military vehicles on April 6, 2022, in Bucha, Ukraine. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images/FILE)

The White House says it “remains to be seen” whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will ultimately face justice for alleged war crimes after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest Friday, but the US will continue to help Ukraine document Moscow's misdeeds.

“We’re going to stay committed to helping Ukraine as they document and analyze and preserve the kinds of evidence of the war crimes, the atrocities, the crimes against humanity that have occurred inside Ukraine at the hands of Russian forces,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday.

The United States does not recognize the ICC, but Kirby said the US is “not going to back off our belief that accountability for these war crimes has got to be had, however long that takes.”

Kirby said the US wants to see “any perpetrators of war crimes held to account,” but he declined to say if US President Joe Biden would tell law enforcement to arrest Putin if he came to the US. He said it was "very, very unlikely" the Russian leader would travel to the United States.

Asked if the US would ask other countries like Israel or India – who also do not recognize the ICC – to arrest the Russian leader, Kirby said it would “have to be sovereign decisions those leaders make.”

Remember: Russia also does not recognize the ICC, and the court does not conduct trials in absentia, so Putin would either have to be turned over by Moscow or arrested in a foreign country for him to face charges from the court.

Moscow's ties to Beijing: Tapper also asked Kirby if there was any intelligence indicating China has decided to give Russia weapons to help with the country’s assault on Ukraine.

“We don't believe that they've taken it off the table still, but we also don't see any indication, any confirmation, that they're moving in that direction or that ... they have sent lethal weapons,” Kirby said.
“We don't think it's in their interest. It shouldn't be in anybody's interest, quite frankly, to help Mr. Putin continue to slaughter innocent Ukrainians,” he added.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping will fly to Moscow next week to meet with Putin in his first visit to Russia since Putin launched his devastating invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.

The visit will be seen as a powerful show of Beijing’s support for Moscow in Western capitals, where leaders have grown increasingly wary of the two nations’ deepening partnership as war rages in Europe.

CNN's Nectar Gan and Anna Chernova contributed to this report.