A five-story residential building in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, was struck by a Russian missile on March 2, killing at least two people and injuring 11 others. Russian attacks on civilian targets throughout the conflict are being investigated as potential war crimes. Photo provided by Ukraine Emergency Services/EPA-EFE
March 14 (UPI) -- The International Criminal Court in The Hague has announced plans to pursue war crimes charges against Russia in connection with the Ukraine war, prompting an immediate rebuke from Moscow officials who said the Kremlin did not recognize the tribunal.
In the first legal action since the war began a year ago, Russia is expected to be charged on two counts of abducting Ukrainian children and willfully targeting civilian infrastructure throughout the conflict, according to an exclusive report by The New York Times.
"We don't recognize this court, and we don't recognize the court's jurisdiction. This is how we feel about it," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said defiantly when asked about the report during a Tuesday press briefing.
Arrest warrants were being drawn up for several Russian figures who have yet to be identified by authorities after months of investigative work that led to evidence of the atrocities.
In the coming days, Karim Khan -- who is serving as the chief prosecutor in the case -- will attend a pretrial hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to proceed.
Back at the Kremlin, officials appeared unfazed by the case moving forward, even as Russian President Vladimir Putin could face charges of genocide or crimes against humanity for ordering missile attacks on civilian targets.
Peskov accused The Hague of turning a blind eye to alleged human rights crimes committed by Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territories.
"Over the years, neither international judicial [institutions], even those that we don't recognize, nor other members of the international community have bothered to pay attention to the destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian killings committed by Ukrainian nationalists in Donbas," he said.
Diplomatic experts noted that Russian war crimes charges would be difficult to prosecute due to the slim chance that the Kremlin would surrender anyone to stand trial before The Hague, which is prevented from hearing cases in absentia.
One year ago, the ICC launched a wide-ranging investigation into alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed by Russia in Ukraine as far back as 2013.
Since the Russian invasion began in February 2022, tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in widespread fighting across Ukraine, according to United Nations data.
The ICC, which was created by the Rome Statute in 1998, has the backing of more than 120 member countries, although the international court has no affiliation with the United Nations.
Russia signed but never ratified the statute, and in 2016 Putin resisted joining the global judicial body while the Russian Foreign Ministry blasted the court's authority and independence.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he believed the Russian government was committing crimes against humanity.
At the time, Garland called Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Russian mercenary unit the Wagner Group, a war criminal.
"Mr. Prigozhin, who runs this thing, is in my opinion a war criminal," Garland told Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. "Maybe that's an inappropriate thing for me to say as a judge before getting all the evidence. But I think we have more than sufficient evidence for me to feel that way."