ICC Arrest Warrants Target Top Russian Officers

Published: 07 March 2024

Ukraine DestructionICC issues warrant arrests against Russian Army high officers for the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, related to massive destruction in Ukraine. (Photo: manhhai, Flickr, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

New warrants have been issued nearly a year after the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued the first arrest warrants against Russian officials, namely Russian President Vladimir Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights Maria Lalova-Belova.

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II on Tuesday issued additional warrants of arrest for Sergei Ivanovich Kobylash and Viktor Nikolayevich Sokolov, in the “context of the situation in Ukraine for alleged crimes committed from at least 10 October 2022 until at least 9 March 2023.”

Kobylash, a high-ranking Lieutenant General in the Russian Armed Forces, commanded the Long-Range Aviation of the Aerospace Force during the period under scrutiny. Meanwhile, Sokolov, an Admiral in the Russian Navy, served as the Commander of the Black Sea Fleet during the same timeframe.

According to ICC, they are both accused of orchestrating attacks on civilian targets, resulting in civilian casualties and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure, constituting war crimes. They are also charged with committing inhumane acts categorized as crimes against humanity.

The ICC did not provide further information about the warrants, stating that their contents are classified as “secret” to ensure the protection of witnesses and the integrity of the ongoing investigations.

The arrest warrants were issued after requests from the prosecution and a review by Pre-Trial Chamber II, which found sufficient evidence to suspect the two individuals of ordering Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian electrical infrastructure between October 2022 and March 2023.

“These strikes were directed against civilian objects, and for those installations that may have qualified as military objectives at the relevant time, the expected incidental civilian harm and damage would have been clearly excessive to the anticipated military advantage,” Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC stated in a separate statement.

He emphasized that the Pre-Trial Chamber also found  reasonable grounds to suspect these commanders of bearing criminal responsibility for these crimes either collectively, through direct orders, or due to their failure to adequately supervise their subordinates who executed the crimes.

“I have repeatedly emphasized that those responsible for actions that impact innocent civilians or protected objects must know that this conduct is bound by a set of rules reflected in international humanitarian law,” Khan said.

“All wars have rules. Those rules bind all without exception,” he concluded.

As war crime charges mount against the Moscow regime, it is simultaneously cracking down on dissenters who speak out against the conflict in Ukraine.

The Kremlin regime has escalated its crackdown by branding former chess champion and outspoken critic Garry Kasparov as a “terrorist and extremist” on its official state list (No. 6216), offering no specific justification for the move.