In a letter signed on Monday, Putin congratulated the unit for their “great heroism and courage” and awarded the unit the title “guardian” for “protecting Russia’s sovereignty.”
“By wise and bold actions during the special military operation in Ukraine, the unit’s crew became a role model in the performance of its military duties, valor, dedication and professionalism,” reads the president’s congratulatory statement.
The move will be seen as a public message to the Ukrainian government and the West, after several international leaders condemned the alleged atrocities committed by Russian forces in the Ukrainian towns of Bucha and Borodyanka.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Russia for the killings and called on Moscow to stop committing “war crimes”.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the mass killings, while repeating baseless allegations of the veracity of photographs of civilian corpses on the streets of Bucha.
But during a visit to the towns of Bucha and Borodianka last week, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said there were “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC have been committed”.
Khan also warned that it would be a “challenge” to ensure justice in Ukraine, given Russia’s decision to withdraw its signature from the ICC statute, which gives the court jurisdiction to try individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Russia does not extradite its citizens to other countries.
Since Russia’s failed attempt to seize Kyiv, it has refocused its invasion of Ukraine with an attack on the eastern Donbass region.
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