ICC to seek warrants against Russians over alleged Ukraine war crimes - source

FILE PHOTO: ICC Prosecutor Khan visits the site of a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike in Vyshhorod

By Anthony Deutsch

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -The International Criminal Court (ICC) is expected to seek its first arrest warrants against Russian individuals in relation to the conflict in Ukraine "in the short term", a source with knowledge of the matter said on Monday.

The prosecutor of the ICC is expected to ask a pre-trial judge to approve issuing warrants against several Russians for the abduction of children from Ukraine to Russia and the targeting of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, said the source, who commented on condition of anonymity.

It was unclear which Russian individuals the ICC prosecutor would seek warrants for or exactly when, but the warrants could include the crime of genocide, said the source.

The office of the prosecutor at the ICC declined to comment. Russia's defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ICC 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.

A U.S.-backed report by Yale University researchers last month said Russia has held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children at sites in Russian-held Crimea.

It 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 since its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine's former prosecutor general in June told Reuters she hoped the ICC would prosecute the child abductions as genocide. Ukraine's prosecutor general says that among 71,000 reports of war crimes under investigation by his office are air strikes against thousands of civilian targets.

Russia has strongly denied that its forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. It says it does not deliberately target civilians and has said that it is offering humanitarian aid to those wishing to flee Ukraine voluntarily.

The U.N. genocide convention defines "forcibly transferring children of the group to another group" as one of five acts that can be prosecuted as genocide.

Genocide is considered one of the toughest crimes to prove because it requires evidence of specific intent.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by John Stonestreet, Alison Williams and Frank Jack Daniel)