The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on Tuesday that it had issued arrest warrants the day before for Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s former Russian defense minister, and Valery Gerasimov, Chief of Russia’s General Staff for alleged crimes committed during Russia’s war with Ukraine.

The warrants say that they were each allegedly responsible for directing attacks at civilian objects, a war crime; secondly the war crime of causing excessive incidental harm to civilians or damage to civilian objects; thirdly the crime against humanity of committing or allowing inhumane acts to be carried out.

The ICC press release says there are reasonable grounds to believe they bear individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes, for having committed the acts jointly and/or through others, for ordering the commission of the crimes and/or failing to exercise proper control over the forces under their command.

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The ICC said one of the core objectives of international humanitarian law is the protection of civilians during armed conflicts but felt that there are reasonable grounds to believe that military strikes were directed by the two accused against civilian objects or, for those installations that may be considered as military objectives, there was no attempt to minimize incidental excessive civilian harm and damage in terms of the anticipated military advantage. The crimes are said to have been committed from at least Oct. 10, 2022, until at least March 9, 2023.

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Shoigu was defense minister until Russian leader Vladimir Putin replaced him with Andrei Belousov last month and moved him sideways into the position of head of Russia’s Security Council. Gerasimov has been rarely seen in public this year with unconfirmed reports in March that he had been replaced as Chief of the General Staff by Viktor Pznikhir.

The Kremlin has not yet commented on the decision, but Russia is not a member of the ICC and has repeatedly claimed that Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is a legitimate military target and denies targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure

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Ukrainian officials have welcomed the announcement.

The country’s human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said the ICC decision meant Ukraine was a step closer to getting justice. “Sooner or later, a just punishment will overtake every war criminal!” he said in a post on Telegram.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said it was right that Shoigu and Gerasimov were being held “individually responsible.” He said in a statement, “This is an important decision. Everyone will be held accountable for evil.”

The issuing of these two warrants brings the total number of top Russian officials wanted for war crimes to four as the ICC has previously issued arrest warrants for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova for involvement in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

The court has no powers to enforce its decision but relies on the 124 member nations, that are signatories to the Rome Statute that established the court, to arrest those indicted for war crimes or crimes against humanity that visit their territories.

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