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Russia Formally Withdraws From Hague Criminal Court


Russia's Foreign Ministry claims the ICC has failed to "truly independent" international judicial body" (file photo)

Russia says it is formally withdrawing from the International Criminal Court, a day after the Hague-based court's prosecutor said Russian forces were in fact fighting in eastern Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin ordered the Foreign Ministry to take the move in In a decree signed on November 16.

The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, described the work of the court as "one-sided and inefficient," saying it "did not live up to the hopes associated with it and did not become truly independent."

Russia signed the treaty to join the court, known as the Rome Statute, but the Russian parliament never ratified the treaty.

The order comes after the court's lead prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said for the first time on November 14 that the simmering conflict in Ukraine should be considered as an international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Bensouda also called Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula an "occupation."

Amnesty International said Putin's order appeared to be directly linked to the ICC prosecutor's statement.

"It is hard not to see this as an attempt by Russia to undermine the progress towards international justice," said Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International Russia.

"This announcement appears as nothing but contempt for the aims of the ICC -- putting an end to impunity for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity -- and is an affront to all victims of these appalling crimes," he said.

Amnesty International also noted that it had documented possible war crimes committed by Russian forces during the ongoing conflict in Syria.

"As Russia had not ratified the Rome Statute, little will change in practice; however, the decision is an alarming indication of Russia's unwillingness to cooperate with international justice systems," Nikitin said.

The United Nations says at least 9,600 people have been killed in fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, TASS, and AFP
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