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ICC issues arrest warrants for top Russian commanders

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for top Russian commanders over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Sergei Kobylash and Viktor Sokolov, an army lieutenant general and a navy admiral, are the two men named by the ICC.

This is the second round of warrants for Russian officials related to the war in Ukraine.

The first were for President Vladimir Putin and his children’s rights envoy.

Russia does not recognise the ICC, making it highly unlikely they will ever be deported to face the charges.

The ICC said the latest warrants were due to there being reasonable grounds to believe that the two suspects were responsible for “missile strikes carried out by the forces under their command against the Ukrainian electric infrastructure”.

The alleged crimes took place between October 2022 and March 2023, the ICC said.

The court said that the attacks caused civilian harm and damage that would have been clearly excessive.

The two men “are each allegedly responsible for the war crime of directing attacks at civilian objects” and are also accused of the “crime against humanity of inhumane acts”, the court said.

Mr Kobylash, 58, was the commander of long-range aviation for the Russian air force at the time of the alleged crimes.

Mr Sokolov, 61, was an admiral in the Russian navy who commanded the Black Sea Fleet during the period to which the charges relate, according to the ICC.

Moscow has in the past denied targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the new warrants.

“Every Russian commander who orders strikes against Ukrainian civilians and critical infrastructure must know that justice will be served,” he posted on social media.

“Every perpetrator of such crimes must know that they will be held accountable.”

Created by a UN treaty in 2002, the ICC investigates and brings to justice those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, intervening when national authorities cannot or will not prosecute.

The treaty has been ratified by 123 countries, but Russia – along with China, India and the US – has refused to join.

In March last year, the ICC issued arrest warrants for President Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova.

The court focused those claims on the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

Moscow denied the allegations and labelled the warrants as “outrageous”.

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