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International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for Russia's top general, ex-defense minister

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday issued arrest warrants for former Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and top Russian commander Valery Gerasimov on suspicion of war crimes related to attacks on civilians in Ukraine.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court said Shoigu and Gerasimov were charged with “directing attacks on civilian objects” and “causing excessive accidental harm to civilians or damage to civilian objects”, as well as “crimes against humanity for inhuman acts”. press release.

Specifically, the ICC said there was sufficient evidence to show that both Mr. Gerasimov and Mr. Shoigu were responsible for orchestrating attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure between October 10, 2022 and at least March 9, 2023, which was a key strategy employed by Russian forces during the war.

Targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, and the ICC said that in regard to potential lawful targets in Russian operations, the likelihood of civilian harm outweighed the military objectives of the attacks.

The arrest warrant was issued by a three-judge Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court after the prosecution presented evidence in its case.

Shoigu was Russia’s long-time defense minister before being appointed secretary of the Security Council by Russian President Vladimir Putin last month. Gerasimov has served as Russia’s chief of the general staff since 2012 and will become Russia’s top commander in the Ukraine war in early 2023.

Last year, the ICC also issued arrest warrants for Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the country’s children’s rights commissioner, on suspicion of forcibly returning Ukrainian children to Russia.

If there is a valid arrest warrant, an ICC member state would be obliged to arrest the individual and may impose travel restrictions on Shoigu and Gerasimov. Russia is not a member state of the ICC.

The United States has previously supported an ICC arrest warrant for Putin and is likely to do so for Shoigu and Gerasimov, but it is not a member state of the ICC and criticized the court last month after its chief prosecutor said it was seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Galant and senior Hamas officials on suspicion of war crimes related to the Gaza war.