Dutch war crimes investigators examine Ukraine's battered infrastructure

  • World
  • Thursday, 01 Jun 2023

A view shows facilities of the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine March 27, 2023. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

KYIV (Reuters) - Dutch and Czech investigators have completed a six-week mission to Ukraine for the International Criminal Court to gather evidence of damage caused to critical and civilian infrastructure, the group's leader said.

Russia conducted a winter campaign of air strikes on Ukrainian energy and utilities infrastructure, damaging up to 50% of the energy system. Kyiv said this was a war crime, while Moscow said the targets were legitimate.

Speaking in a Reuters interview on Wednesday, Lieutenant Colonel Maud Droogh, who led the mission, declined to provide details of what exactly the team investigated, but said they had visited facilities in Ukraine's east and south.

"Altogether it's our goal to convict the most responsible for these war crimes. We are not looking for the individuals who do something, but for the big players in the game," she said.

She said the team comprised 45 investigators, including mostly Royal Netherlands Marechaussee military police and several experts from the Czech Republic.

The ICC, which is based in The Hague, issued arrest warrants in March for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Children's Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova on charges of forcibly deporting children from Ukraine.

Shortly before those charges were announced, a source told Reuters the ICC would also seek to charge Russian officials for targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, though this has not happened for now.

Moscow does not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC and on May 19 said it had issued an arrest warrant for the court prosecutor who prepared the Putin arrest warrant.

Droogh said the ICC would decide whether to open any further cases based on the evidence they have collected.

The crime scenes they examined varied in size, she said.

"Sometimes you can do it in a couple of hours, and sometimes we need a couple of days."

The investigators deployed a variety of forensic techniques, such as 3D mapping of crime scenes, examination of weapons and munitions, and digital tracing of phones and other devices.

Droogh said the team planned to return in October for further ICC investigations.

Ukraine accuses Russia of "terrorism" and deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure to sow fear, something Moscow denies.

(Reporting by Max Hunder, additional reporting by Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Sharon Singleton)

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