The International Criminal Court announced Friday it issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for crimes committed in Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The ICC accused Putin of being responsible for war crimes of unlawful deportation and unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
The ICC also accused Putin of failing to control his military.
“President Putin is now officially a wanted man. Following the ICC’s indictment of President Putin and Children’s Commissioner Lvova-Belova for the war crime of forcible transfer of children, the international community must stop at nothing until they are arrested and brought to trial.
“Should President Putin or Ms Lvova-Belova leave Russia, states must deny them safe haven by arresting them immediately and surrendering them to the ICC.
The court also issued a warrant for the arrest of Maria Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation. The AP reported on her involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian orphans in October, in the first investigation to follow the process all the way to Russia, relying on dozens of interviews and documents.
ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said in a video statement that while the ICC’s judges have issued the warrants, it will be up to the international community to enforce them. The court has no police force of its own to do so.
The ICC can impose a maximum sentence of life imprisonment “when justified by the extreme gravity of the crime,” according to its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, that established it as a permanent court of last resort to prosecute political leaders and other key perpetrators of the world’s worst atrocities — war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Still, the chances of Putin or Lvova-Belova facing trial remain extremely remote, as Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction — a position it vehemently reaffirmed Friday.
“In the criminal proceedings being investigated by our law enforcement officers, more than 16,000 forced deportations of Ukrainian children by the occupier have already been recorded. But the real, full number of deportees may be much higher,” he said. “Such a criminal operation would have been impossible without the order of the highest leader of the terrorist state.”
The message from Friday’s warrants “must be that basic principles of humanity bind everybody,” Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said in an exclusive on Friday.
“Nobody should feel they have a free pass. Nobody should feel they can enact with abandon. And definitely nobody should feel they can act and commit genocide or crimes against humanity or war crimes with impunity,” chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward at the Hague.
Asked if he believed that one day Putin would be in the dock, Khan pointed to historic trials of Nazi war criminals, former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milošević, and former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, among others.
“All of them were mighty, powerful individuals and yet they found themselves in courtrooms,” he said.
Russia – like the US, Ukraine and China – is not a member of the ICC. As the court does not conduct trials in absentia, any Russian officials charged would either have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside of Russia.
War crime allegations
One senior Ukrainian official told on Monday that Kyiv has been pushing the ICC for some time to seek arrest warrants against Russian individuals in relation to the war in Ukraine.
The Russian government doesn’t deny taking Ukrainian children and has made their adoption by Russian families a centerpiece of propaganda.
In April, the office of Lvova-Belova, the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights, said that around 600 children from Ukraine had been placed in orphanages in Kursk and Nizhny Novgorod before being sent to live with families in the Moscow region.
As of mid-October, 800 children from Ukraine’s eastern Donbas area were living in the Moscow region, many with families, according to the Moscow regional governor.
Some of the children have ended up thousands of miles and several time zones away from Ukraine. According to Lvova-Belova’s office, Ukrainian kids have been sent to live in institutions and with foster families in 19 different Russian regions, including Novosibirsk, Omsk and Tyumen regions in Siberia and Murmansk in the Arctic.
Lvova-Belova dismissed the ICC’s arrest warrant against her, saying it was “great” that the international community appreciated her work for children, according to Russian state news agency TASS on Friday.
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