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Friday July 19, 2024

ICC issues arrest warrants for Russia army chief, ex-minister

By AFP
June 26, 2024
Former Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov spotted together. — AFP/File
Former Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov spotted together. — AFP/File

THE HAGUE: The International Criminal Court on Tuesday said it had issued arrest warrants for Russia´s top army chief and ex defence minister over strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure that constituted alleged war crimes.

The ICC warrants are the latest in a series of actions by the court over the Ukraine war, including an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The warrants, issued on Monday but made public on Tuesday, concerned the Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, and former defence minister Sergei Shoigu.

The pair are accused of the war crimes of directing attacks at civilian targets and causing excessive incidental harm to civilians, as well as the crime against humanity of “inhumane acts” in Ukraine, the ICC said in a statement.

ICC judges said there were “reasonable grounds to believe that the two suspects bear responsibility for missile strikes carried out by the Russian armed forces against the Ukrainian electric infrastructure from at least 10 October 2022 until at least 9 March 2023.”

The court said these strikes were “directed against civilian objects” and even when targets could be considered military, civilian damage “would have been clearly excessive to the anticipated military advantage”.

Ukraine hailed the “important” decision, with President Volodymyr Zelensky saying Kyiv hoped to see the pair “behind bars”.

“This decision is a clear indication that justice for Russian crimes against Ukrainians is inevitable,” Zelensky said on social media.

Russia dismissed the warrants as “insignificant”.

The country´s security council said: “It´s all hot air since the ICC´s jurisdiction does not cover Russia” and the decision was taken “as part of the West´s hybrid war against our country.”

The ICC, based in The Hague, does not have its own police force to enforce arrest warrants. It relies on the justice systems of its 124 members to carry them out.

Putin himself has travelled abroad, notably to Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- none of whom are ICC members.

However, he did skip a meeting of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group in South Africa, which would have been expected to carry out the warrant.

“As I have repeatedly emphasised, no individual, anywhere in the world, should feel they can act with impunity,” said ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan, who pressed the charges.