NEWS: Ukraine
ICC launches investigation into likely war crimes in Ukraine.

The pros­e­cu­tor of the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) said he would “imme­di­ate­ly pur­sue” an inves­ti­ga­tion into alleged war crimes in Ukraine dat­ing back to 2013, when protests broke out against a pro-Rus­sia gov­ern­ment in Kiev.

Karim AA Khan said Wednes­day night that the inves­ti­ga­tion was begin­ning after 39 coun­tries that are par­ties to the Rome Statute that estab­lished the court — includ­ing Cana­da and France — asked the ICC to open an investigation.

“These refer­rals enable my Office to pro­ceed with the open­ing of an inves­ti­ga­tion into the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine as of Novem­ber 21, 2013,” Khan said in a state­ment, adding that its scope would include “any past and present alle­ga­tions of war crimes, crimes against human­i­ty or geno­cide com­mit­ted in any part of the ter­ri­to­ry of Ukraine by any person.”

The announce­ment comes a week after Rus­sia launched an all-out attack on Ukraine, prompt­ing con­dem­na­tion and sanc­tions from major world powers.

The ICC pros­e­cu­tor had made pub­lic his inten­tion to open an inves­ti­ga­tion on Mon­day, say­ing there was a “rea­son­able basis” to believe that war crimes were com­mit­ted dur­ing the conflict.

“I have just noti­fied the Pres­i­den­cy of the ICC of my deci­sion to pro­ceed imme­di­ate­ly with active inves­ti­ga­tions into the sit­u­a­tion. Our work to gath­er evi­dence has now begun,” Khan said in Wednes­day’s statement.

Estab­lished in 2002, the Hague-based court inves­ti­gates and pros­e­cutes geno­cide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Last week, Khan warned war­ring par­ties that his office had juris­dic­tion over Ukraine because the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment accept­ed the ICC’s man­date in 2015, even though the coun­try was not ini­tial­ly a par­ty to the Rome Statute.

In the days fol­low­ing the start of the Russ­ian troop offen­sive last Thurs­day, vio­lence esca­lat­ed in sev­er­al major Ukrain­ian cities, dri­ving hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple to flee the coun­try in search of safety.

Russ­ian forces entered the south­ern port city of Kher­son late Wednes­day, its may­or was quot­ed by Reuters and The New York Times as saying.

But the Russ­ian mil­i­tary’s advance on the cap­i­tal Kiev “remains stalled,” the Pen­ta­gon said ear­li­er in the day, as Moscow’s forces regroup and face logis­ti­cal chal­lenges and Ukrain­ian resistance.

The U.S. on Wednes­day cre­at­ed a task force to go after wealthy Rus­sians in Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s inner cir­cle, promis­ing to seize their assets and ensure that a series of finan­cial restric­tions are enforced.

But as the fight­ing in Ukraine con­tin­ues, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Antony Blinken said diplo­ma­cy is still pos­si­ble to resolve the crisis.

“It’s much hard­er for diplo­ma­cy to suc­ceed when the guns are fir­ing, the tanks are rolling, the planes are fly­ing,” Blinken told reporters.”

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