The International Criminal Court (ICC) plans to open two war crimes cases related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine: the abduction of Ukrainian children and Russia’s deliberate attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, as reported by the New York Times (NYT).
According to current and former officials who are aware of the decision but are not authorized to speak publicly, the ICC will seek arrest warrants for several individuals. However, in either case, arrest warrants for the suspects are unlikely to be issued in the near future.
- Russia abducted Ukrainian children and teenagers and sent them to Russian re-education camps
- The Kremlin deliberately targeted Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure
The first case involves the abduction of Ukrainian children ranging in age from infants to teenagers. According to The New York Times and researchers, they were taken from Ukraine and placed in homes where they became Russian citizens or sent to summer camps for re-education. It is part of a Kremlin-sponsored program. Some of them were orphans or boarding school students.
Based on a February report by Yale University and the US State Department’s Conflict Observatory program, Russia holds at least 6,000 Ukrainian children in its 43 camps. According to Ukraine, there could have been more than 16,000 as of early March.
In the second case, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, is expected to investigate Russia’s ongoing attacks on civilian infrastructure. They include attacks on water supplies, gas, and power plants, which are far from the battlefield and are not considered “legitimate military targets.”
The US government has evidence that sheds light on the Kremlin’s deliberate targeting of vital civilian infrastructure, but President Joe Biden has yet to decide whether to release it. The Department of Defense is preventing the transfer of intelligence because it raises concerns that it will set a precedent and could open the door for the prosecution of Americans.
In each case, it is unclear who the court intends to charge.
In response to a request for confirmation of the requests for arrest warrants, the prosecutor’s office stated, “We do not publicly discuss specifics related to ongoing investigations.”
According to some foreign diplomats and experts, there is a possibility that the ICC could indict Russian President Putin. The court does not recognize the head of state’s immunity in cases involving war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.
However, experts say the likelihood of a trial remains low. The court cannot consider cases in absentia, and Russia is unlikely to extradite its officials.
The Kremlin denies the allegations of war crimes. However, international and Ukrainian investigators have amassed compelling evidence of various atrocities since the invasion’s earliest days.