Brit cops ask for war crimes evidence after warnings of 'almost hourly' Russian atrocities

4 March 2022, 20:40 | Updated: 4 March 2022, 20:52

British police are asking for evidence of war crimes in Ukraine
British police are asking for evidence of war crimes in Ukraine. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Evidence of war crimes in Ukraine is being gathered by a specialist team in Britain's Metropolitan Police – and it wants details from anyone with information.

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Russia was accused of carrying out atrocities in Ukraine after its missile and artillery forces were filmed blasting civilian areas.

There have also been fears about how it could escalate the violence after the West said its invasion had stalled over supply issues and fierce resistance.

The Met's War Crimes Team has now said it is supporting the International Criminal Court's investigation into the war.

It comes after Downing Street warned that crimes were now being committed by the Kremlin's forces almost hourly.

Read more: 'By God's grace we avoided nuclear catastrophe' US warns over 'reckless' Russia attack

Read more: Fifteen year jail for protesting against the war: Putin's new crackdown against dissent

Commander Richard Smith, Head of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command, which contains the War Crimes Team, said: "Following the news that the ICC had opened an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine, our War Crimes Team is now seeking to gather any evidence that might be present here in the UK of such crimes in Ukraine.

"This could be in the form of direct messages, images or videos that friends or relatives here in the UK have been sent by those in Ukraine.

"Or it could be somebody who was previously in Ukraine and who may have witnessed or even been a victim of a war crime and has since travelled to the UK.

"To be clear though, we specifically want to hear from people who are now here in the UK, and who have a direct link to any relevant information or evidence – this is not about the general public highlighting or telling us about things they might have simply come across or seen in the media, online or on social media."

Police at Britain's ports will be able to help people who arrive in the country after travelling from Ukraine – as more than a million people are thought to have fled the fighting.

The investigation – which is not a UK inquiry but a move to support the ICC – comes after the West, including Boris Johnson, accused Russia of carrying out appalling acts.

The Prime Minister said this week: "What we have seen already from Vladimir Putin's regime in the use of the munitions that they have already been dropping on innocent civilians, in my view, already fully qualifies as a war crime."

A Downing Street spokesman said: "Obviously, formally it will be for a criminal court to make that ruling but I think no one can be in any doubt that what we're seeing daily, almost hourly now, are horrific acts that would certainly appear to be war crimes."

Russia has insisted it is using precision strikes.

Its military was accused of attacking a nuclear power plant, which Ukraine said could result in dangerous consequences.

A fire had to be extinguished at the Zaporizhzhia plant, the biggest in the continent, which Mr Johnson warned "could directly threaten the safety of all Europe".

Russian forces are understood to have taken control of the area.

Meanwhile, the battle for Ukraine's cities continues, with Russia apparently trying to encircle the capital, Kyiv.

Anyone with information can report war crime evidence to