The European Parliament has overwhelmingly backed a resolution declaring Vladimir Putin’s Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” for its invasion of and actions in Ukraine.
In a 494-58 vote with 48 abstentions, the EU legislature sought to increase pressure on Moscow to bring anyone responsible for war crimes committed from the start of the invasion before an international court.
The 27-nation bloc has condemned in the harshest terms the invasion and repeatedly said that several Russian actions over the past 10 months have amounted to war crimes.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the decision by the European Parliament.
“Russia must be isolated at all levels and held accountable in order to end its long-standing policy of terrorism in Ukraine and across the globe,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I propose designating the European Parliament as a sponsor of idiocy,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram.
The European Parliament’s website was hit by a cyberattack just several hours after the vote, a spokesman later confirmed.
“The availability of @Europarl_EN website is currently impacted from outside due to high levels of external network traffic. This traffic is related to a DDOS attack (Distributed Denial of Service) event,” Parliament spokesman Jaime Duch said in a tweet.
A pro-Kremlin group claimed responsibility for the attack , the parliament’s president later said.
“The European Parliament is under a sophisticated cyberattack. A pro-Kremlin group has claimed responsibility,” Roberta Metsola said in a tweet.
Mr Zelensky has called on the United States and other countries to similarly declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, accusing Mr Putin’s forces of targeting civilians, which Moscow denies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has so far refused to list Russia despite resolutions in both chambers of Congress urging him to do so.
Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria are the four countries designated by the US as state sponsors of terrorism, meaning they are subject to a defence export ban and financial restrictions.
In the EU, the parliaments of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland have so far designated Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the European Parliamentary Research Service.
It comes amid reports of fresh Russian strikes targeting critical infrastructure across Ukraine, including the capital, prompting a nationwide air-raid alert to be issued.
The attacks have left the entire Kyiv region without electricity, according to Oleksii Kuleba, head of the regional military administration.