April 24th, 2024

International court seeks the arrest of 2 Russian officers over attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure

By Mike Corder, The Associated Press on March 5, 2024.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Tuesday for two high-ranking Russian military officers on charges linked to attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine that judges said happened “pursuant to a state policy.”

It’s only the second time the global court has publicly announced arrest warrants linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine. In March 2023, the court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the court announced warrants for Russian Lt. Gen. Sergei Ivanovich Kobylash, who was commander of the Long-Range Aviation of the Aerospace Force at the times of the alleged crimes. Also wanted is Russian navy Adm. Viktor Kinolayevich Sokolov, who was the commander of the Black Sea Fleet.

They are wanted for the war crime of directing attacks at civilian objects, and causing excessive incidental harm to civilians or damage to civilian objects, and the crime against humanity of inhumane acts.

The court said that judges who reviewed evidence presented by prosecutors said that there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that the two men are responsible for “missile strikes carried out by the forces under their command against the Ukrainian electric infrastructure” from Oct. 10, 2022 until at least March 9, 2023.

“During this time-frame, there was an alleged campaign of strikes against numerous electric power plants and sub-stations, which were carried out by the Russian armed forces in multiple locations in Ukraine,” the court said.

Russian forces have repeatedly targeted Ukrainian infrastructure since launching its invasion more than two years ago.

The court said the campaign “qualifies as a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts against a civilian population, pursuant to a state policy.”

The judges found “reasonable grounds to believe that the alleged strikes were directed against civilian objects, and for those installations that may have qualified as military objectives at the relevant time, the expected incidental civilian harm and damage would have been clearly excessive to the anticipated military advantage.”

There is little prospect that either of the suspects will be turned over to face trial in The Hague. Russia isn’t a member of the global court, doesn’t recognize its jurisdiction and refuses to hand over suspects charged by the court.

The court didn’t release details of the warrants, “in order to protect witnesses and to safeguard the investigations.”

But it said it publicized the warrants “mindful that conduct similar to that addressed in the present situation, which amounts to violations of international humanitarian law, is alleged to be ongoing” and saying that publication “may contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes.”

When it issued the arrest warrant for Putin last year, the court also issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation on the same charges of involvement in child abductions.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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