US delegation to discuss Putin's war crimes warrant in The Hague

The International Criminal Court building is seen in The Hague

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A high-level U.S. congressional delegation will meet with the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Thursday and discuss allegations of war crimes against Russian President Vladimir Putin, its chair said on Wednesday.

The delegation led by Representative Michael McCaul, Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, will talk with ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan - the latest sign of improving ties between Washington and the world's top war crimes court.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant against Putin in March accusing him of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly denied its forces have engaged in war crimes, or forcibly taken Ukrainian children.

McCaul said "30,000 children have been taken away from their families and indoctrinated in Russia." Washington was looking at how it can "help The Hague gather more and collect more evidence and intelligence to prove the case against Putin," he said.

The United States is not a member of the court, along with major powers including China and Russia, but U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland made an unannounced stop off at the court in June, the first of its kind.

In July, U.S. President Joe Biden asked his administration to begin sharing evidence of alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine with the ICC.

Washington imposed sanctions against top ICC officials under the Trump administration and then lifted them under U.S. President Joe Biden. It has supported the ICC's work in investigating war crimes in Ukraine since Russia invaded in February of 2022.

Asked whether there was enough evidence for a genocide case against Russia, which argues it is fighting a defensive war against the West in Ukraine, delegation members compared the situation with the Nazi occupation of Europe during World War Two.

"When you try to erase a culture, a people and a religion, that is a definition of genocide," McCaul said.

The delegation was on the last stop of a visit to Europe to discuss NATO cooperation and ways to further support Ukraine, including the provision of F-16 fighter jets and pilot training. It also visited Sweden and Finland.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Philippa Fletcher)