Ukrainian Ambassador to United Nations says Putin war criminal judgement up to international court, echoing Ardern

The Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations says it is should be up to an international tribunal to declare Vladimir Putin as a war criminal, even if he personally believes that to be true.

It echoes comments from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this week, when she said that while there is mounting evidence of war crimes occurring at the hands of Russian forces in Ukraine, it is up to an international court to make a ruling about their leader.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, who represents Ukraine at the UN and became well-known early on in the conflict for his fiery, impassioned speeches, told Newshub Nation that at "the end of the day, it is up to the tribunal to confirm whether it was genocide or whether it was a war crime or crime against humanity".  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week said "war crimes" and "genocide" had taken place in the town of Bucha, which sits outside of the capital of Kyiv. Officials and journalists who entered the town after Russian troops pulled out found bodies shot at close range and mass graves.

Other world leaders were shaken by the revelations, with US President Joe Biden agreeing it was a "war crime" and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet saying there were "serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes".

Kyslytsya said it is currently a "political statement" for leaders to call Russia's actions a "war crime". 

"What [Russia does], and we see it almost daily, they try to destroy, annihilate not only the military targets but, indiscriminately, the civilian targets, the infrastructure, schools, hospitals, so when you see that, you understand that it is not merely the military planning, it's an attack on the entire nation."

Asked about Ardern not calling Putin a "war criminal", Kyslytsya said he is "a war criminal", but said there needed to be an investigation and trial.

"Let me assure you that the way the international community is united behind the idea of accountability, behind the idea that there will be no impunity after this war encourages all of us that we will have necessary evidence collected properly and presented for the judges the international tribunal to consider."

Speaking on Monday about the horrific images coming out of Ukraine, Ardern said it was "evidence of war crimes at the hands of Russia" and New Zealand had already referred the country to the International Criminal Court, which is currently investigating.

She didn't want people to assume she wasn't willing to join others in calling Putin a war criminal, but said she isn't a judge on the court. 

"We are supporting the International Criminal Court to make that determination, but every piece of evidence points to the fact that there are war crimes being committed by Russia in Ukraine at the hands of the President Vladimir Putin."

Ardern's stance has been backed up by both ACT leader David Seymour and Greens co-leader James Shaw. Both said it wasn't up to them to decide if Putin was a war criminal, but a tribunal. National's Christopher Luxon took a slightly different approach, telling reporters on Tuesday that while he understood there was a formal process, "I would be quite comfortable calling him a war criminal". 

"The pictures we are all seeing are very alarming. I appreciate there is a process to go through before you get formally prosecuted, but I think we can see what is happening there and it is definitely war crimes."

Kyslytsya on Saturday also gave his reaction to a missile attack on a train station in the Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk. Ukraine says at least 50 people were killed at the site, where about 4000 civilians were trying to flee from the conflict.  Russia has denied being involved, something the US is "not buying". 

"Another example of how the Russian army defies every possible standard or rule of behaving," Kyslytsya said.

"Just yesterday we had a very successful vote about removing the Russian Federation from the Human Rights Council and the next morning, we have yet another example of how the Russian actions are not consistent with any standard for the United Nations."

He'd be surprised if Russia admitted it was behind the strike, Kyslytsya said. Russia usually claims their actions are in self-defence, despite no threat from Ukraine.

"Russia does not think that Russia wages a war. Their narrative is that what they do is a special operation in Ukraine. They would insist that they do not wage a war."

Kyslytsya told Newshub Nation that he believes Russian interpreters working in the United Nations "are having a very hard time interpreting their bunch of lies". 

"I tried at the very initial stages. I tried to appeal to dignity, to religious feelings of my Russian counterparts, but it is to no avail."