European Parliament declares Russia a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’

The resolution was overwhelmingly approved as Ukrainian authorities began evacuating the most vulnerable citizens from Kherson, where critical infrastructure has been damaged by retreating Russian forces

Guerra en Ucrania
Kherson residents waited on Monday night to be evacuated by train while charging their cellphone batteries.DPA vía Europa Press (DPA vía Europa Press)

The European Parliament on Wednesday sent a powerful message to the Kremlin about its international isolation and the future legal consequences of its war in Ukraine. The EU body overwhelmingly approved a resolution that designates Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism” for the “brutal and inhumane” acts inflicted upon Ukraine and its citizens since the launch of the invasion.

While the declaration, which received 494 votes in favor, 58 against and 44 abstentions, is not binding, it carries great symbolic value at a time when Russian forces are systematically damaging Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the middle of winter. “The deliberate attacks and atrocities carried out by the Russian Federation against the civilian population of Ukraine, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and other serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law amount to acts of terror against the Ukrainian population and constitute war crimes,” MEPs said in the resolution, which accuses Russia of creating a global food crisis and weaponizing hunger.

By contrast, the United States has so far refused to declare Russia a sponsor of terrorism despites calls to do so by some members of Congress. The Biden administration has argued that such a move would probably freeze the lines of diplomatic communication that still exist between Washington and Moscow. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has repeatedly called on the EU and other Western allies to declare Russia a “terrorist state.”

The European Parliament follows in the footsteps of similar designations made in recent weeks by the national parliaments of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and which the Kremlin has dismissed as “Russophobic” and “discriminatory.”

Evacuation of Kherson begins

The Ukrainian government has begun the evacuation of Kherson due to the impossibility of guaranteeing basic services in the city to safely spend the winter. A week before withdrawing on November 11, Russian troops sabotaged the electricity and water supply, as well as the telephone network. Temperatures are already dropping below freezing and the government is accelerating the departure of Kherson’s residents, assuring them they will be able to spend the cold months at shelters.

The evacuation is voluntary for now and mainly targets families with children and the elderly. Around 75,000 people remain in the city, 25% of the pre-war population, the governor of the province’s military administration, Yaroslav Yanushevich, reported last week. The remaining 75% left during the more than eight months that the city spent under Russian occupation; the vast majority of them fled towards the western regions of Ukraine and to the European Union.

The Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister, Irina Vereschuk, published a statement on Tuesday detailing the plan for the residents of Kherson: “Due to the security situation in the city and infrastructure problems, citizens can move during the winter to safer regions of the country. The government is offering free evacuation to Krivi Rih, Mikolaiv and Odessa, as well as an additional transfer to the Kirovohrad region, the Khmelnitskii region or the westernmost regions of Ukraine. Free accommodation in shelters, humanitarian aid, food and medical assistance will be provided.”

In the two days that EL PAÍS was in Kherson, many residents expressed their desire to stay put in their homes despite the adversities. “People are ready to fight for survival and preparing for even worse scenarios. Morale is very high and they know that the military on the front lines are in a much worse situation,” said Olena Pavlenko, president of Dixi Group, one of the leading energy sector analysts in Ukraine.

The Russians, a kilometer away

Russian positions are only a kilometer away, on the other side of the Dnipro River. A spokesman for the Military High Command for the Southern Region of Ukraine said last week that, depending on developments on the front, the neighborhoods most exposed to the exchange of artillery fire should be compulsorily evacuated. “Russian artillery fire makes the situation in Kherson more complicated than in Kyiv,” agreed Pavlenko.

Mikhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, warned in a social media message on Monday that “The Russian Federation began to systematically bomb Kherson. There is no military logic in it - they just want to take revenge on the local population. This is a huge war crime happening live.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky estimated on Monday that half of Ukraine’s energy grid has been destroyed by the Russian offensive. Millions of people will have to face the winter without any means to keep warm, which could cause a new wave of refugees to the European Union. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that there are hundreds of hospitals and health centers throughout the country that lack fuel, water or electricity. “Ukraine’s health system is facing its darkest days in the war so far,” Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said in a statement after visiting the country.

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