International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for General Valery Gerasimov and Sergei Shoigu for war crimes

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for the head of Russia’s military and its recently sacked defence minister over strikes against civilian targets in Ukraine.

General Valery Gerasimov and Sergei Shoigu were accused of orchestrating a campaign of long-range bombardments against Ukrainian energy infrastructure in the winter of 2022.

The announcement is the second round of largely symbolic arrest warrants issued for Russian officials in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin and his children’s rights tsar were last year slapped with warrants for the forcible deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

They now face arrest in more than 100 countries that recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Gen Gerasimov and Shoigu, who now serves on Russia’s powerful security council, are considered to be the architects of Putin’s invasion to Ukraine.

But their plans to seize capital Kyiv within days and decapitate Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s government ended in failure.

They subsequently triggered a war of attrition that has resulted in over 500,000 Russian personnel being killed or wounded, according to British intelligence estimates.

Part of their strategy was to plunge Ukraine into darkness during the country’s bitterly cold winters, the ICC alleged.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the two suspects bear responsibility for missile strikes carried out by the Russian armed forces against the Ukrainian electric infrastructure from at least Oct 10 2022 until at least March 9 2023,” The Hague-based court said in a statement on Tuesday.

“During this timeframe, a large number of strikes against numerous electric power plants and sub-stations were carried out by the Russian armed forces in multiple locations in Ukraine.

“The expected incidental civilian harm and damage would have been clearly excessive to the anticipated military advantage,” the court added.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, said the fresh round of arrest warrants targeted “two key figures in Russian military leadership”.

“This decision is a clear indication that justice for Russian crimes against Ukrainians is inevitable. It clearly demonstrates that no military rank or cabinet door can shield Russian criminals from accountability,” he added.

The future arrest of any Russian official with an outstanding ICC arrest warrant is considered highly unlikely. The tribunal has no police force of its own and relies on member states to make arrests.

This means that the decisions would only curb their ability to travel to countries that recognise the jurisdiction of the court, because it could end with them being detained and sent to The Hague for trial.

The court does not conduct trials in absentia.

Russia, which is not one of the 123 countries that are parties to the ICC under the Rome Statute, has said it doesn’t recognise the court’s decisions, and denies war crimes charges.

Dmytro Lubinets, one of Ukraine’s top war crimes investigators, said: “Sooner or later, a just punishment will overtake every war criminal.”

Andriy Yermak, president Zelensky’s chief of staff, said: “This is an important decision. Everyone will be held accountable for evil.”

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