ICC Issues War Crimes Arrest Warrant for Russian President Putin over Alleged Unlawful Deportation of Ukrainian Children

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The ICC charges are the first to be formally lodged against Russian officials since Moscow began its unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, alleging he is responsible for war crimes, and has focused its claims on the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

The ICC, which also issued an arrest warrant for Russian commissioner for children’s rights Maria Lvova-Belova over the allegations, says the crimes were committed in Ukraine when Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of the country on 24 February 2022.

The court said there “are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the alleged crimes, for having committed them directly alongside others, and for “his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts”.

Russia has denied the allegations, labelling the warrants as “outrageous and unacceptable.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tweeted Friday: “We consider the very posing of the question outrageous and unacceptable. Russia, like a number of states, does not recognise the jurisdiction of this court and, accordingly, any decisions of this kind are null and void for the Russian Federation from the point of view of law.”

Lvova-Belova, who has in the past spoken openly of efforts to indoctrinate Ukrainian children taken to Russia, also dismissed the ICC’s warrant against her, saying it was “great” that the international community appreciated her work for children.

“It’s great that the international community has appreciated the work to help the children of our country, that we do not leave them in the war zones, that we take them out, that we create good conditions for them, that we surround them with loving, caring people,” she said. “There were sanctions against all countries, even Japan, in relation to me, now there is an arrest warrant, I wonder what will happen next. And we continue to work.”

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan in his statement said “children can’t be treated as the spoils of war, they can’t be deported,” adding: “This type of crime doesn’t need one to be a lawyer, one needs to be a human being to know how egregious it is.”

Reacting to the warrants, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was grateful to Khan and the ICC for their decision to press charges against “state evil”.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said the decision was “historic for Ukraine”, while presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said the warrants were “just the beginning”.

The ICC has no powers to arrest suspects and can only exercise jurisdiction within its member countries, of which Russia – like the US, China, and Ukraine – is not.  But the warrants could affect the president in other ways, such as being unable to travel internationally.