The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, said he “strongly urged” for immediate humanitarian access and safe passage from Mariupol and other besieged cities in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
Michel “firmly reiterated the EU’s position: support for Ukraine and her sovereignty, condemnation and sanctions for Russia’s aggression,” he said Friday in a tweet on his verified account.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that Putin had “a lengthy telephone conversation” with Michel.
“The development of the situation in Ukraine was discussed in detail. Charles Michel briefed Vladmir Putin on his contact with the Ukrainian leadership during his recent trip to Kyiv,” according to a statement from the Kremlin.
Putin “outlined his principled assessments in connection with a special military operation to protect the republics of Donbass” and spoke about “measures taken on an ongoing basis to protect civilian population, the daily opening of humanitarian corridors and ceasefire declaration for the safe evacuation of civilians from the combat zone,” the Kremlin said.
“It was noted that after the liberation of Mariupol, for humanitarian reasons, an order was given to cancel the storming of the industrial zone of the Azovstal plant. At the same time, all servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, militants of the nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries who lay down their arms are guaranteed life, dignified treatment in accordance with international law and the provision of qualified medical care. But the Kyiv regime does not allow them this opportunity,” the Kremlin said.
“Attention was drawn to the irresponsible statements of EU representatives about the need to resolve the situation in Ukraine by military means, as well as ignoring the numerous war crimes committed by the Ukrainian security forces,” the Kremlin said. “It was noted that Brussels could influence the Kiev authorities in order to force them to stop the massive shelling of Donbas settlements and other gross violations of international humanitarian law.”
Some context: World leaders have accused Russia of carrying out war crimes for weeks. There have been mass graves and murdered civilians found in Bucha and outside of Mariupol. The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor called Ukraine a “crime scene,” following the ICC formally opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine on March 2. And just today, London’s Metropolitan Police said it has received around 50 referrals of alleged war crimes in Ukraine, as it collates evidence to assist the ICC with its ongoing investigation.
Responding to a call by Michel for direct contact between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Putin “reaffirmed the well-known position on this matter, noting that such a possibility depends, in particular, on concrete results in the ongoing negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian representatives, during which the Ukrainian side is showing inconsistency and is not ready to seek mutually acceptable solutions.”
The Kremlin also reiterated unfounded claims that the leadership of “most” EU countries “indulge” in Russophobia, “which manifests itself, for example, in the cultural, humanitarian and sports fields.”