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UKRAINE

Spain opens probe into ‘serious violations’ by Russia in Ukraine

The Spanish public prosecutor's office said Tuesday it had opened a probe into possible "serious violations of international humanitarian law by Russia in Ukraine", as accusations of war crimes during Putin's invasion mount up.

Spain opens probe into 'serious violations' by Russia in Ukraine
A father puts his hand on the window as he says goodbye to his daughter in front of an evacuation train at the central train station in Odessa on March 7th, 2022. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

The aim is to “determine the criminal nature” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the office said in a statement, just hours after Germany’s federal prosecutors opened a similar probe.

“The aggression suffered by the sovereign nation of Ukraine is an unjustified act of war that is not covered by any international regulations,” the Spanish prosecutor’s office said.

It has resulted in “serious violations of international humanitarian law,” it added.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague announced last week that he was going ahead with an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine since Moscow’s invasion on February 24th.

Earlier on Tuesday, Germany’s federal prosecutor said it had opened a probe into suspected war crimes by Russian troops since the invasion.

Like Germany, Spain has repeatedly prosecuted atrocities committed abroad using the legal principle of universal jurisdiction.

This doctrine allows countries to try people for crimes of exceptional gravity, including war crimes and genocide, even if they were committed in a different country.

Russia has come under intense criticism for its assault on Ukrainian cities, in operations that Kyiv and Western governments say have included attacks on schools, hospitals and residential blocks.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Washington has seen “very credible reports” that Russia has committed war crimes during its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia calls its actions – which have triggered the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two – a “special military operation”.

More than two million people have now fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion, according to the latest data from the United Nations Refugee Agency.

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UKRAINE

Ukrainian grain dodges Russian blockade to reach Spain via new route

A Ukrainian grain shipment arrived in Spain on Monday after being shipped via the Baltic Sea to circumvent Russia’s blockade, imposed following the outbreak of war, a Spanish association said.

Ukrainian grain dodges Russian blockade to reach Spain via new route

The Finnish-flagged cargo ship, the Alppila, carrying 18,000 tonnes of grain for animal feed docked at A Coruña port in northwestern Spain early on Monday, the Agafac food manufacturers association said.

It said it was the first time such a route had been used for Ukrainian grain.

Agafac, which had placed the order, said the grain had been transported by lorry to the northwestern Polish port of Swinoujscie on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

It then called in at Brunsbuettel in northern Germany before heading for Spain.

This is “the first shipment of grain to be transported via a new sea route through the Baltic Sea to circumvent the Russian naval blockade on Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea that has been in place since the war began,” Agafac said.

Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for Ukraine’s agriculture ministry was unable to confirm whether or not it was the first such shipment of Ukrainian grain to travel via the Baltic Sea.

“We don’t have information about transportation specifically to Spain. We deliver to Romania, Poland. This is probably the logistics outside Ukraine,” he said.

When Russia invaded on February 24th, it imposed a naval blockade on Ukraine’s Black Sea ports that has choked off its grain exports, threatening a global food crisis.

Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine was the world’s top producer of sunflower oil and a major wheat exporter, but millions of tonnes of grain exports remain trapped due to the blockade.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukraine is currently exporting more than two million tonnes of grain a month via rail but that figure is far below what it was exporting before the war via its ports, notably Odessa.

The United Nations and certain countries like France and Turkey have been pushing for the opening of a “security corridor” in the Black Sea to allow Ukrainian exports to resume.

At the end of May, General Christopher Cavoli, the incoming head of the US European Command, said Germany’s railway company recently set up a “Berlin train lift” — a special train service to move Ukraine’s grain exports.

He said Poland was working on a simplified border crossing regime to ease the deliveries, and once out of Poland, the grain was taken to Germany’s northern ports to be shipped onwards.

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