Day 853: Ukraine formally starts EU accession talks

The EU launches membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova. The International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for Russia’s Sergei Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov for alleged crimes committed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine strikes a drone warehouse and training ground in Russia’s Krasnodar region.

Ukraine begins EU accession talks

The European Union launched membership talks with Ukraine on Tuesday. The decision was formally announced at the first EU-Ukraine intergovernmental conference in Luxembourg. 

“Today is a historic day when we move to actual, real negotiations with the European Union regarding Ukraine’s membership,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said in a statement on Tuesday.

“On February 28, 2022, just a few days after the full-scale invasion began, we signed an application for membership. Almost two years ago, in June 2022, we attained the candidate status, and last December we secured a political decision on negotiations,” he said.

During the conference on Tuesday, the EU will present Ukraine and Moldova with a negotiating framework of reforms and legislation they need to adopt before being deemed ready to join. Later on Tuesday the bloc will also start accession talks with Moldova.

ICC issues arrest warrants for Shoigu and Gerasimov for alleged war crimes committed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Sergei Shoigu, the former Russian defense minister, and Russia’s chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov on Tuesday on the charges of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. These alleged crimes are connected to Russian strikes against Ukrainian critical infrastructure from October 2022 and March 2023.

Shoigu and Gerasimov “at the time of the alleged conduct, are each allegedly responsible for the war crime of directing attacks at civilian objects (article 8(2)(b)(ii) of the Rome Statute) and the war crime of causing excessive incidental harm to civilians or damage to civilian objects (article 8(2)(b)(iv) of the Rome Statute), and the crime against humanity of inhumane acts under article 7(1)(k) of the Rome Statute,” the court’s statement reads.

“Pre-Trial Chamber II considered that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the two suspects bear responsibility for missile strikes carried out by the Russian armed forces against the Ukrainian electric infrastructure from at least 10 October 2022 until at least 9 March 2023.” During this time-frame, a large number of strikes against numerous electric power plants and sub-stations were carried out by the Russian armed forces in multiple locations in Ukraine, ICC said.

Pre-Trial Chamber II also determined that the alleged campaign of strikes “constitutes a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts against a civilian population, carried out pursuant to a State policy, within the meaning of article 7 of the Statute.” The chamber also found that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the alleged strikes were directed against civilian objects, and for those installations that may have qualified as military objectives at the relevant time, the expected incidental civilian harm and damage would have been clearly excessive to the anticipated military advantage.”

“Therefore, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the suspects intentionally caused great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health, thus bearing criminal responsibility for the crime against humanity of other inhumane acts, as defined in article 7(1)(k) of the Rome Statute,” ICC said.

Ukraine strikes drone warehouse, training ground in Russia’s Krasnodar region

Late on Monday, the Ukrainian Navy confirmed an operation to strike a drone base in the town of Yeysk, in Russia’s Krasnodar region, that took place on Friday, June 21. 

In a post to Telegram, Navy officials said the operation was conducted in partnership with the Ukrainian Security Service. The strike hit military facilities at the 726th air defense training ground belonging to the military base no.33859 in Yeysk, Krasnodar region. 

“Service members are trained to use different types of drones at the facility,” the Ukrainian Navy said. 

The strike took out 120 drones of different kinds, including 20 Shahed-136/Geran-2 drones, 50 Lancet attack drones, 40 Zala reconnaissance drones, and 10 SuperCam reconnaissance drones.

The attack also caused casualties among the drone instructors and maintenance crews redeployed there from the Yelabuga drone factory. Russia has been systematically using the site in Yeysk to launch drones at Ukraine.

“Instead of fighting off the arrows that are already flying, you take out the archer. It’s always more efficient. It’s the ideal tactics — to destroy [the weapons] before the enemy uses them,” spokesperson for the Ukrainian Navy, Captain Dmytro Pletenchuk said on television, commenting on the operation.