A war crimes investigation has been launched into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after an unprecedented number of countries, including Romania, backed the move.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called the military intervention “abhorrent”.
Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor for the international criminal court (ICC), said he would begin work “as rapidly as possible” to identify possible crimes against humanity or genocide committed in Ukraine since the invasion started on Feb. 24.
The referral for investigation by 39 countries will speed up the process because it allows the chief prosecutor to bypass the need to seek the approval of the court in The Hague, the Guardian reported.
„This reflects the determination of the international community to use the instruments of international law and… justice to hold accountable those officials or other representatives of the Russian Federation for the aggression against Ukraine, ” Romania said Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu.
„The victims of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine deserve justice, and the International Criminal Court is best placed to do so. No crime can and must not go unpunished! ” he added.
The move came as Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, braced for a siege and the Russian defense ministry claimed it was in “complete control” of Kherson, a southern port city near the Crimean peninsula.
Mr Khan, a British lawyer, said an “advanced team” of investigators was already traveling to Ukraine.
“That can only take place if evidence is independently and impartially collected and assessed and then in due course, decisions can be made regarding whether or not there’s criminal responsibility, and then the judges ultimately will decide,” he said.
Asked about reports Russia was using cluster bombs in civilian areas, he said: it is clear … directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects amounts to a war crime”.
The ICC investigation go back as far as 21 November 2013, when Ukraine’s then president rejected closer integration with the EU. That led to massive protests that precipitated Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
British Foreign Minister Liz Truss has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin, of “targeting civilians indiscriminately” and directing troops to attack towns across Ukraine.
The UN refugee agency has estimated that 1 million people have fled Ukraine, making it the swiftest exodus of refugees this century.
More than 2,000 civilians had died since the invasion began, authorities said.