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International Court issues warrants for top Russian military officials

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RIGA, Latvia — The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for two top Russian military figures who led the war on Ukraine for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, it announced Tuesday.

Former defense minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov were named in the warrants for their attacks on civilian infrastructure in particular.

The action comes after the court — to which Russia is not a signatory — last year issued indictments against President Vladimir Putin and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova, over the removal of Ukrainian children to Russia.

The court has no powers of enforcement and relies on the 124 nations that are signatories to the Rome Statute that established the court to arrest those indicted on a charge of war crimes or crimes against humanity if they visit their territories.

Shoigu was defense minister until Putin removed him last month and appointed Andrei Belousov in his place. Shoigu, a Putin loyalist, was instead appointed as head of Russia’s Security Council.

According to the indictment, each was allegedly responsible for the war crimes 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 indictment alleged that Russia carried out multiple actions against Ukrainian civilians, adding “there are reasonable grounds to believe that the suspects intentionally caused great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health, thus bearing criminal responsibility for the crime against humanity of other inhumane acts.”

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The ICC indictment cited alleged crimes from at least Oct. 10, 2022 until at least March 9, 2023, when Russia carried out a large number of strikes against Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure.

The indictment said there were reasonable grounds to believe the two officials bore “individual responsibility” for the alleged crimes either by ordering the crimes or failing to control Russia’s armed forces.

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