Casualties mount in battle for Bakhmut – as ICC ‘prepares first arrest warrants’ over Russia’s invasion

Ukrainian servicemen on a BMP-2 tank drive towards the city of Bakhmut
(Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine a year ago.

Both Ukraine and Russia have reported inflicting heavy losses during fierce fighting around the eastern city of Bakhmut – while the International Criminal Court (ICC) is said to be planning to issue arrest warrants against a number of Russians.

Commanders on both sides have reported relentless fighting around Bakhmut, which has become the focus of a months-long campaign to take the city in the region of Donetsk which has led to some of the bloodiest fighting since Moscow’s invasion began.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor at the ICC is expected to ask pre-trial judges to approve arrest warrants against Russian individuals relating to the abduction of children from Ukraine to Russia and the targeting of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, according to reports from Reuters and The New York Times. If successful, it will be the first time ICC warrants are issued in relation to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The prosecutor, Karim Khan, opened an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine a year ago. He highlighted during four trips to Ukraine that he was looking at alleged crimes against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure in Moscow’s repeated missile assaults. A recent US-backed report by researchers at Yale University last month said Russia has held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children at sites in Russian-held Crimea. The report identified at least 43 camps and other facilities where Ukrainian children have been held that were part of a “large-scale systematic network” operated by Moscow.

The ICC did not comment on the reports. Russia has claimed that children have been taken and given to Russian families on the grounds of humanitarian rescue. Moscow also denies deliberately harming civilians in their months-long targeting of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Neither Russia or Ukraine is a signatory to the ICC’s founding document and there is little chance of Moscow handing anyone over to the court. Ukraine has asked the ICC to exercise jurisdiction and dozens of ICC member states have referred the invasion to the court.

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