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UK to send investigators to Ukraine to gather evidence of war crimes, Truss says | Ukraine

Britain will send investigators to Ukraine to help gather evidence of war crimes, including sexual violence, the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said on Friday.

Both Ukrainian prosecutors and the international criminal court (ICC) are investigating potential war crimes in Ukraine since Russia’s 24 February invasion, which the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize its neighbour.

Moscow denies committing war crimes in Ukraine or targeting civilians during a war that has killed thousands, devastated many cities and towns and forced 5 million people, mostly women and children, to flee abroad.

Speaking after meeting with ICC officials, Truss said a British team would head to Ukraine in May with a special emphasis on investigating rape as a possible war crime.

“It’s done to subjugate women and destroy communities and we want to see it stopped,” she said. “This is about collecting a wide range of evidence, witness statements, forensic evidence, and video evidence,” she said outside the court building in The Hague.

The team will arrive in neighboring Poland early next month to examine how they can assist.

“We will also use British intelligence to help show the link between what is happening on the frontline and the Russian authorities, because it is important that everyone in the chain of command is held to account,” she said.

“The priority now is collecting the evidence as soon as possible and making that happen and also bringing perpetrators to justice because bringing perpetrators to justice is also about preventing further atrocities taking place in Ukraine, demonstrating to people that if they do commit war crimes, if they do use rape as a weapon of war, they will be held to account.

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“We are looking at all possible ways, including how the crime of aggression can be prosecuted.”

Separately, Truss met with her Dutch counterpart, Wopke Hoekstra, to discuss the need for further sanctions on Russia, including a halt on purchasing Russian fossil fuels.

The two Nato allies have been closely aligned on Ukraine policy, with both supporting the supply of heavy weaponry for its war effort. Both also support a full ban on Russian energy exports to Europe, including gas, by the end of 2022.

Truss said Britain endorses prosecuting Russian leaders for the war crime of aggression – a thorny question under international law.

The ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes committed on Ukrainian soil, including by Russian soldiers, but cannot bring aggression charges since Russia is not a member of the court.

Somes and legal experts have called for the establishment of a separate tribunal as the quickest way to hold Russian politicians responsible for an illegal war.

“We want to see all the crimes prosecuted,” Truss said. However, she added, “I’m concerned that if there’s focus on setting up an additional tribunal that will divert resources away from this vital evidence collecting.”

Reuters and the Press Association contributed to this report

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