The UK government warned Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his commanders in Ukraine could face prosecution for war crimes, as indiscriminate shelling hit one city under invasion.
The shelling of Kharkiv has destroyed a school and, according to its mayor, killed at least 11 civilians.
The front pages of British newspapers carried photographs of two young girls killed by Russian attacks in Ukraine and the words of a doctor as he tried to save one of them: “Show this to Putin.”
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, a former war crimes prosecutor, said Britain and its allies would wait as long as it takes to bring any violators to heel, pointing to the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia.
“That’s why we’re making it clear both to Putin but also to commanders in Moscow, on the ground in Ukraine, that they will be held accountable for any violations of the laws of war,” he told Sky News.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague said Monday it was investigating after finding a “reasonable basis” to suspect alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine since Russia seized the Crimea peninsula in 2014.
For Putin, Russian generals and soldiers, “there’s a very real risk that they’ll end up in the dock of a court in The Hague”, Raab added on BBC television.
“If and when the ICC decides to take action, I’m sure the UK and allies will want to support them practically, logistically.”
Amnesty International said Russian cluster bombs hit a preschool in northeastern Ukraine last Friday that was being used to shelter civilians, killing three people including a child.
Amnesty chief Agnes Callamard said the “stomach-turning” attack in the town of Okhtyrka “should be investigated as a war crime”.