September 22, 2023
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin speak to journalists on February 28, as they visit the site of a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike late November, in the town of Vyshhorod, outside Kyiv, Ukraine.
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin speak to journalists on February 28, as they visit the site of a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike late November, in the town of Vyshhorod, outside Kyiv, Ukraine. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters/FILE)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is planning to open two war crimes cases related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and issue arrest warrants against “several people,” according to the New York Times (NYT) and Reuters, citing current and former officials with knowledge of the decision who were not authorized to speak publicly.   

According to the NYT, the cases would represent the first international charges to be brought since the start of Russia’s war and come after months of work by special ICC investigation teams.   

The first case the ICC is set to open is about Russia’s alleged abduction of Ukrainian children. The second is on Russia’s “unrelentingly” targeting civilian infrastructure, including water supplies and gas tanks, according to the NYT.   

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan’s first step is to present his charges to a panel of pretrial judges, who will decide whether legal standards have been met for issuing arrest warrants or whether investigators need more evidence, the NYT reported.       

In a response to a request from CNN on the NYT’s reporting, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor said that they “provide no comment on this report.”      

The ICC chief visited Ukraine last month to probe Russia’s attacks on power and other infrastructure.

Khan told reporters during the visit that “we see clearly a pattern, I think, in terms of the number, scale and breadth of attacks against the power grids of Ukraine. And we need to look at why that’s taking place; are they legitimate targets or not; and whether or not they are targeted for other reasons.”

“There seems to be a lot of damage in Ukraine, and it may well be it is part of a policy and part of a plan and we need to get to the bottom of it and see whether or not there is criminal responsibility and if there is we have an International Criminal Court that has jurisdiction to look into it,” he added.   

When asked whether the court’s process may be too slow to meet the expectations of the Ukrainians, the top prosecutor said: “What people want are not Pyrrhic victories.”   

“As a prosecutor we are officers of the court. We are not here to get a round of applause by a conjuring trick. Whenever we do move, (people) should have confidence that this is not a political process,” he continued.    

More background: Earlier this month, CNN reported on 15-year-old Arina Yatsiuk, one of 345 Ukrainian children who disappeared since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, according to official Ukrainian statistics.   

The Ukrainian government says many of the missing children have been forcibly taken to Russia. The Russian government doesn’t deny taking Ukrainian children and has made their adoption by Russian families a centerpiece of propaganda.    

One senior Ukrainian official told CNN on Monday that they have been pushing the ICC for some time to seek arrest warrants against Russian individuals in relation to the war in Ukraine.    

“Ukraine has been pushing for Russian officials involved in war crimes to be prosecuted by the ICC, up to and including (Russian President Vladimir) Putin who is ultimately responsible,” the official said.   

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