The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for three people for alleged war crimes during the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia, it announced on Thursday.

Mikhail Mayramovich Mindzaev, Gamlet Guchmazov and David Georgiyevich Sanakoev, who were pro-Moscow breakaway republic officials, allegedly detained civilians to use as “bargaining chips” in negotiations, the ICC has said.

The Hague-based ICC judges found that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that each of these three suspects bears responsibility for war crimes,” the court said in a statement.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan requested the arrest warrants in March – days after Russia invaded Ukraine – and judges granted the requests on June 24, before making them public on Thursday .

Mindzaev was South Ossetia’s interior minister, Guchmazov was the head of the ministry’s remand center and Sanakoev was the region’s “mediator” at the time, the court heard.

In 2016, the court opened an investigation into alleged war crimes during Russia’s brief 2008 war with Georgia over South Ossetia, its first such investigation into events outside of Georgia. Africa and the first on a war involving Russia.

The fighting in August 2008 claimed over 700 lives and displaced tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians.

The ICC said there was evidence that ethnic Georgians were arrested in South Ossetia ‘then detained, abused and held in harsh detention conditions in a detention center in Tskhinvali’, nicknamed ‘the insulator “.

The detainees were then “used as a bargaining tool by Russia and the de facto authorities of South Ossetia, and used for an exchange of prisoners and detainees. Following the exchange, the detainees were forced to leave South Ossetia.

Russian nationals Mindzaev, 66, and Guchmazov, 45, are both charged with the war crimes of unlawful detention, torture and inhuman treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, hostage taking and unlawful transfer of civilians, a said the court.

Sanakoev, also 45, is charged with taking hostages and illegally transferring civilians.

Russia is not a member of the ICC but Georgia is.