The International Criminal Court's prosecutor has requested permission to open an investigation into the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia, saying there is evidence that war crimes and crimes against humanity may have been committed during the brief conflict.

Rights groups welcomed the move Wednesday as a step toward justice for victims.

The court's prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, asked judges on Tuesday to authorize a full-scale investigation after a national probe in Georgia stalled.

If judges approve the investigation, it would be the tribunal's first full case outside Africa.

Georgia lost control of its breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the war, and accuses Russia of pressuring weaker neighbors who are courting the West. Moscow now subsidizes and deploys troops in the regions and recognizes them as independent states.