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1 Mar, 2022 14:00

Army not targeting civilians, Russia claims

Claims to the contrary are hoaxes, Kremlin insists
Army not targeting civilians, Russia claims

Russian troops in Ukraine are attacking only military targets, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Tuesday, commenting on the news that the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague would launch a probe into possible war crimes in Ukraine.

An ICC prosecutor said on Monday that there was “a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity” had been committed in Ukraine. Accusations against Russia were filed with the ICC by Kiev.

Peskov said Moscow “categorically denied” allegations raised against it by Ukraine, including fresh claims that Russian troops used banned cluster munitions and thermobaric weapons in Ukraine. The Russian official branded such claims “hoaxes”.

Russian troops “do not attack civilian facilities or residential areas,” Peskov added, reiterating previous statements to that effect by the Russian defense ministry.

The official said he could not comment on casualties sustained by Russian forces in Ukraine, but remarked that heads of certain Russian regions, who confirmed casualties taken by soldiers from their provinces, didn’t need the central government’s permission to do so.

Moscow continues to recognize Volodymyr Zelensky as the legitimate president of Ukraine, Peskov confirmed to journalists. The Ukrainian leader “could order troops to lay down arms, and there would be no casualties,” he suggested. 

Asked about the post-invasion status of Ukraine and what Russia would expect from its future election, Peskov said the issue had nothing to do with the Russian government.

“The Kremlin cannot play a role in holding elections in Ukraine. It’s a foreign country,” he said.

Peskov lamented Western attempts to put pressure on Russia over its attack on Ukraine, claiming that the US had induced on its European allies Washington’s long-held taste for illegal restrictions. The practice “spread through Europe like an infection,” he remarked. Moscow will not submit to pressure, he said, adding that Russia perceived the retaliatory policies to be temporary.

“With time, leaders will arise in the EU, who will have a broad vision and realize that they need to be developing together with our nation. We will be working with that potential in mind,” he said.

Russia launched its offensive in Ukraine last week, claiming it to be partially an operation to defend the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk from Ukrainian attacks and, partially, a preemptive measure to reverse NATO’s creeping expansion into the country.

The US and its allies responded with an array of sanctions and restrictions aimed at crippling the Russian economy as well as ramping up supplies of weapons to Ukraine. Kiev and its foreign backers say Russia is waging an unprovoked war against its neighbor.