London to host international war crimes meeting to discuss Ukraine

 (AP)
(AP)

Ministers from across the world will meet to discuss alleged war crimes in Ukraine at a high-profile meeting in London.

Deputy prime minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will host the meeting in March at Lancaster House alongside his Dutch counterpart.

The group will hear from the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan, about the court’s work and the role of the international community in supporting its investigations.

It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to target crucial energy infrastructure as he looks to plunge Ukrainian citizens into darkness and wipe out central heating supplies during the freezing winter temperatures.

Mr Khan is currently investigating accusations that Russian soldiers have carried out war crimes during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, with claims from Kyiv that civilians have been executed and civilians raped, during the 11-month conflict – something the Kremlin has consistently denied.

Mr Raab said: “Russian forces should know they cannot act with impunity and we will back Ukraine until justice is served.

“Almost a year on from the illegal invasion, the international community must give its strongest backing to the ICC so war criminals can be held to account for the atrocities we’re witnessing.”

The meeting will allow countries to determine how to provide further help to the court, the Ministry of Justice said.

Officials said this would include offering practical support, such as helping to gather information and share evidence of atrocities committed on the ground.

Ministers will also discuss how to help victims and witnesses provide testimonies, without causing them further distress.

Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius, co-host of the London meeting and the Netherlands’ minister of justice, said: “The reports and images of Russia’s unlawful and unprovoked armed attack on Ukraine are horrific.

“For us it is crystal clear, these crimes may not go unpunished.”

Last year the UK offered a package of support to the ICC, which included an additional £1 million funding and dedicated police assistance.

The Ministry of Justice said it had also been involved in training Ukrainian judges set to conduct war crime trials and has offered the support of British legal experts.

It comes after Russia launched a massive assault on the city of Bakhmut in the eastern Dobas region in recent weeks.

Satellite images from the city reveal extensive damage to buildings, homes, infrastructure and the fields in and surrounding Bakhmut, which had a pre-Russian invasion population of around 70,000.

One of the images, published by Maxar Technologies, shows an overview of apartment buildings in Bakhmut that have been razed to the ground by Russian forces. Another shows a bridge across a river in the city completely destroyed.