An investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine has been launched after Russia was accused of bombing civilians.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor said evidence is being collected on alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The decision came after 39 nations called for an inquiry to be opened.
Cities, including Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson have come under heavy shelling in recent days.
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, already accused Moscow of war crimes after it launched airstrikes on the country’s second city of Kharkiv, which has resulted in the death of civilians.
On Wednesday, March 2, 2022, the Mayor of Kherson, a city in Ukraine, disclosed that Russian forces seized control of the key port, the first major city to be taken by Moscow since it begun invading a week ago.
Earlier this week, the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan, averred he planned to open an investigation into events in Ukraine “as rapidly as possible” but the referral from 39 nations, including the UK, France and Germany, allowed it to be launched without the need for judicial approval.
“I have notified the ICC Presidency a few moments ago of my decision to immediately proceed with active investigations in the Situation. Our work in the collection of evidence has now commenced.”ICC Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan
Khan will look at past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and will go as far back as 2013, before Russia’s annexation of Crimea the following year.
“These referrals enable my Office to proceed with opening an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine from November 21, 2013 onwards,” Khan noted in a statement, adding that its scope would encompass “any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person”.
According to Ukraine’s state emergency service, said it more than 2,000 civilians have been killed since the Russian invasion began last Thursday, February 24, 2022, although the figure has not been independently verified.
The United Nations’ High Commissioner for refugees said some one million people have already fled the country.
On Wednesday, March 2, 2022, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to demand an immediate end to the invasion of Ukraine.
Just four countries, Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria, joined Russia in opposing a motion calling for the withdrawal of all occupying forces, while 35 nations abstained.
Although the General Assembly’s resolutions are not legally binding, the move further isolates Russia diplomatically.
Russia’s tactics have drawn international condemnation, including rebuke from UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who said President Vladimir Putin’s bombing of innocent civilians “already fully qualifies as a war crime”.
On Wednesday, March 2, 2022, the Mayor of Kharkiv, Ihor Terekhov disclosed that shelling and cruise missile strikes were hitting residential areas and inflicting heavy civilian casualties. In addition to the invasion in the southern port of Mariupol, hundreds are feared dead following hours of sustained shelling.
However, Russian efforts to encircle Kyiv have slowed. According to one US official, a huge Russian convoy to the north of the capital barely moved all day, despite continued aerial bombardment of the city.
On Tuesday, March 1, 2022, a TV tower in Kyiv was hit, knocking media off air and killing about five people.
Meanwhile, in Kharkiv, at least 10 people were killed when an opera house, concert hall and government offices were struck in the city’s Freedom Square.