Arrest warrant issued for war crimes against Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin – Mikhail Metzel/AFP

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issue an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin for kidnapping Ukrainian children.

The Russian president has been accused of war crimes, including forcibly deporting “hundreds” Ukrainian childrenincluding orphans, to Russia.

The announcement came before one of the most crucial weeks of the war, when Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, ready to visit Moscow on Monday in an attempt to negotiate a ceasefire.

The US and Britain said that any deal brokered by China would be meaningless if it accepted Moscow’s refusal to leave its occupied territories inside Ukraine.

The White House stated that such a truce would be a “ratification of the Russian conquest”, while Downing Street said any agreement “not based on Ukraine’s sovereignty” was “not a peace deal at all”.

The warrant means Putin faces arrest in more than 100 countries that recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. He was only the third incumbent president, after Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, to be issued with an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s late dictator.

Dominic Raab, Minister for Justice, said an important milestone had been reached, adding: “It’s going to be a long journey but people said that about Yugoslavia and Rwanda and many of those responsible for the slaughter ended up in the dock of a court.”

Mr Raab called on Ukraine’s allies to step up the search for evidence Russian war crimes to aid the investigation.

There was an angry reaction in Moscow when Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of parliament and close ally of the Russian president, said: “Yankees, hands off Putin!”

Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, said: “The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin. There is no need to explain where this paper is to be used.”

More than 16,000 Ukrainian children were taken deported to Russia since the invasion 13 months ago, according to Kiev.

Karim Khan, the British ICC prosecutor, said Putin changed the law in his country to make it easier for Russian families to adopt Children abducted from Ukraine.

He added: “We cannot allow children to be treated as spoils of war. Today is a first concrete step regarding the situation in Ukraine.”

Kyiv welcomed the arrest warrant, saying it was “just the beginning” of seeking justice for the Russian invasion.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said: “The world has changed. It is a clear signal to the Russian elites of what will happen to them and why things will not be “business as usual”. It is the beginning of the end of the Russian Federation in its current form on the world stage.”

Andriy Kostin, Prosecutor General of Ukraine said: “Over 16,000 incidents of forced deportations from children… we fear the actual numbers may be higher. Russia is literally tearing up our future.”

Russia, like the US, is not among the 123 countries that are parties to the International Criminal Court under the Rome Statute that established the court. A future trial of Putin is therefore highly unlikely, but the arrest warrant is likely to affect his ability to travel as he could be arrested and taken to The Hague.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the arrest warrant was “null and void from a legal point of view” and also “outrageous and unacceptable”.

The ICC announcement came a month after a report by Yale University researchers, supported by the US State Department at least 6,000 Ukrainian children, and likely many more, had been held for “political re-education” in locations in Crimea and Russia. The report identified a “large-scale systematic network” of at least 43 Moscow-operated camps.

Some of the children, only four months old, were taken through the camps and then adopted by Russian families or placed with foster families in Russia. Nathaniel Raymond, one of the Yale researchers, said: “This network stretches from one end of Russia to the other.”

According to the ICC, there are “reasonable reasons to assume that Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the deportations.

An arrest warrant has also been issued for Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights, on similar charges.

In a response, she said, “It’s great that the international community appreciates our work to help the children of our country.”

The ICC does not have a police force to enforce arrest warrants and it would be up to the international community to do so. Piotr Hofmanski, the President of the ICC, said: “The ICC does its part of the job as a court. The judges issued arrest warrants. Execution depends on international collaboration.”

Mr Xi’s expected visit to Moscow next week will be his first meeting with Putin since September. Beijing has offered to help broker peace talks and has tried to present itself as neutral, but refuses to condemn Russian aggression, saying last year it did a boundless friendship with Moscow.

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