The International Criminal Court on Tuesday issued arrest warrants for two top Russian military officers, accusing them of war crimes in Ukraine for targeting civilians and destroying crucial energy infrastructure.

The two officers — Lt. Gen. Sergei Ivanovich Kobylash and Adm. Viktor Nikolayevich Sokolov — are accused in a court statement of being personally responsible for numerous missile strikes by their forces on electrical power plants and substations in multiple locations between October 2022 and March 2023.

The wintertime strikes were defined as war crimes because they were largely directed against civilian targets, causing “excessive incidental harm to civilians or damage to civilian objects,” the court said.

General Kobylash is a senior Russian Air Force officer who commanded the country’s long-range aviation forces during that time period, while Admiral Sokolov was then commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The two are also accused of crimes against humanity because of “intentionally causing great suffering” and serious physical or mental injuries in the general population.

The court’s statement said that full details of the new warrants would not be disclosed in order to protect witnesses and safeguard further investigations. The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, is the only permanent international court mandated to address genocide, wars of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Even though Russians have repeatedly bombed civilian structures and killed uncounted civilians, lawyers familiar with the I.C.C. investigation suggested that prosecutors singled out this specific time period because the weight of evidence and the clarity of the command structure known at the time could make the allegations easier to prove than many others.

This is the second time the court has issued arrest warrants relating to the war in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022. A year ago the judges handed down warrants for Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, and its commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, for the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Similarly, the narrow scope of those accusations, which drew criticism at the time, was a reflection of the prosecutor’s strategy to choose a manageable case that had a strong trail of public evidence, lawyers familiar with the case said at the time.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine welcomed the arrest warrants on Tuesday. “Every Russian commander who orders strikes against Ukrainian civilians and critical infrastructure must know that justice will be served,” he wrote on the social media platform X.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Andriy Kostin, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying that the crimes involved were “committed on a massive scale” far removed from the front lines and with no evident military purpose.

The judges in The Hague called the Russian attacks disproportionate. Even if power installations were considered military objectives at the time, their statement said, the expected “civilian harm and damage would have been clearly excessive to the anticipated military advantage.”

The International Criminal Court has no independent enforcement powers and depends on other countries to make arrests. It is therefore not likely that General Kobylash and Admiral Sokolov will be arrested or tried.

Still, supporters of the court say that the warrants are more than political gestures, as they show victims they are not being overlooked. And the warrants can become the building blocks for a broader legal framework after the war.

Officials in Moscow have denied committing war crimes in Ukraine and have called the I.C.C. arrest warrants and investigations meaningless.

While domestic courts in Ukraine have held some trials of Russians linked to the war, none have involved top officials.

Ukraine has not signed on formally to the I.C.C., which counts 124 members, but it has granted the court jurisdiction over its territory. Russia is not a member either, but the court can target crimes committed on Ukrainian soil by Russian citizens.


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