British counter-terrorism police are gathering evidence of potential war crimes after receiving over 50 reports following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Team, a unit within its counter-terrorism command, said Friday it already received dozens of referrals from people with a link to the UK.
Many of the referrals came from those who have directly fled the conflict unfolding in their homeland.
Metropolitan Police’s headquarters, Scotland Yard, announced last month it was supporting the International Criminal Court probe into alleged war crimes.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dominic Murphy provided an update on the evidence-gathering operation.
“Since the start of the recent military activity in February, our officers have been proactively engaging with Ukrainian communities in the UK,” Murphy said.
“This is to make sure anyone here in the UK who has received direct evidence of potential war crimes knows that this can be reported to us, but also to make sure that anyone affected by these terrible events can also be given the support and help that they might need.”
Murphy said it would be up to the judicial authority to decide whether the first-hand evidence gathered so far could be used to support a charge of genocide.
Evidence could be in the form of messages Ukrainians sent to relatives in the UK and cell phone video footage by those in conflict zones.
Anything sourced from social media or seen as part of news reports is not admissible.
According to the United Nations’ refugee agency, more than five million Ukrainians fled the horrors of war since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the large-scale invasion on Feb. 24.
The US and European countries have since accused Russia of war crimes.
Russia rejected allegations instead saying it has launched a “special military operation” to “de-nazify” Ukraine.
The invasion has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia.
It comes as the UK imposed new sanctions on Putin’s war leaders this week.
The latest UK sanctions target the Generals committing atrocities on the front-line in Ukraine, and individuals and businesses supporting Putin’s military.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Thursday, “The depravity of Russia’s assault on the people of Ukraine is plain for all to see. They are deliberately targeting hospitals, schools, and transport hubs in Mariupol and beyond – just as they did in Chechnya and Syria.
“The UK is unyielding in our support for Ukraine and in holding Putin and his regime to account. Today’s new wave of sanctions hits the generals and defense companies that have blood on their hands.”