Ukraine war crimes probe widens as UK claims 15,000 Russian troops killed



The International Criminal Court (ICC) is joining forces with European prosecutors who are investigating allegations of war crimes committed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as scrutiny grows over reports of rape, torture and mass killings carried out by Kremlin forces.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has signed an agreement with prosecutors’ offices from Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, marking the court’s first-ever participation in an investigative team, it was announced on Monday.

“With this agreement, parties are sending a clear message that all efforts will be undertaken to effectively gather evidence on core international crimes committed in Ukraine and bring those responsible to justice,” said Eurojust, the EU’s agency for criminal justice cooperation.

The news came as the British government said it believes 15,000 Russian troops have now been killed in Ukraine.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs: “It is our assessment that approximately 15,000 Russian personnel have been killed during their offensive.

“Alongside the death toll are the equipment losses and in total a number of sources suggest that to date over 2,000 armored vehicles have been destroyed or captured.”

With the conflict showing no sign of abating as it enters a third month, five train stations in central and western Ukraine were bombed on Monday – with officials saying that one railway worker had been killed and four injured.

Outside of Ukraine, Moscow said it was investigating the cause of a large fire at an oil depot in Russia’s southwestern city of Bryansk – less than 100 miles from the Ukrainian border – while its state news agency TASS reported that series of blasts tore through the ministry of state security in the capital of Moldova’s pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria.

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The ICC announcement follows a recent visit by Mr Khan to Ukraine in which he declared Ukraine a “crime scene” and said there are “reasonable grounds” to believe war crimes had been committed, after hundreds of bodies were recovered in Bucha following the retreat of Russian troops.

The ICC last month opened a separate investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine, following requests to do so by an “unprecedented number” of the court’s member states. The two probes will run separately.

After the atrocities discovered in Bucha sparked global condemnation and calls for probes, recent satellite imagery by US firm Maxar Technology appeared to show more than 200 mass graves near Mariupol, in southern Ukraine, where officials believe up to 9,000 people may have been buried by Russian troops.

Mariupol’s Major Vadym Boychenko accused Vladimir Putin’s troops of burying citizens killed in an attempt to cover up their “military crimes”. Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians.

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies, shows an overview of a cemetery in Manhush, 20km west of Mariupol

(Maxar Technologies)

Now in the second phase of its so-called “special military operation”, Russia has largely been focused on trying to take control of the east so Putin can create a land corridor with Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

But Ukrainian officials reported on Monday that Moscow was failing to make any real “headway” in the region.

That was just hours after US secretary of state Anthony Blinken claimed Russia was failing in its war aims following a visit to Kyiv to meet Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

“When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing,” he told reporters. “Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.”

Austin (L), Zelensky (C) and Blinken (R) on Sunday

(EPA)

Speaking in Poland, following the pair’s three-hour face-to-face meeting with Mr Zelensky, Mr Austin added of the Ukrainian leader: “He has the mindset that they want to win, and we have the mindset that we want to help them win.”

“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

The trip was the highest level American visit to the capital of Ukraine since Russia invaded on 24 February, and saw the US pledge more than $300m (£235.8m) in foreign military financing and announce a $165m sale of ammunition.

Just hours after Mr Blinken’s comments, Russia announced it would investigate the cause of a large fire that erupted in the early hours of Monday morning at an oil storage facility in Bryansk.

Unverified social media footage showed what sounded like two explosions followed by a tower of flames. Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations said nobody had been hurt in the incident.

The ministry said the fire broke out at around 2am Moscow time (11pm GMT), and that there had been no need to evacuate any parts of Bryansk, a city of 400,000 people. It added there was no threat to diesel and gasoline supplies in the region due to there being enough fuel stockpiles.

There was no immediate indication that the fire was caused by Ukraine, where officials continue to deny or ignore suggestions they have struck targets inside Russia.

Meanwhile, Swedish media reports said Sweden and Finland have agreed to submit applications to join Nato at the same time, as early as next month.

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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