The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes related to the alleged abduction of children from Ukraine, a largely symbolic move for now that the Kremlin shrugged off.
(Bloomberg) — The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes related to the alleged abduction of children from Ukraine, a largely symbolic move for now that the Kremlin shrugged off.
The tribunal based in The Hague said one of its pre-trial chambers had granted a request from the prosecution filed Feb. 22 for warrants against Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, according to a website statement.
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“There are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children,” the court said in the statement.
The Kremlin dismissed the ICC move. Russia “doesn’t recognize this court’s jurisdiction and any decisions of such kind are void from the point of view of international law,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in response to the announcement, which he called “outrageous and unacceptable.”
Putin has made few trips outside Russia in recent years, with his last big trip to Western Europe in 2021 for a summit with President Joe Biden in Geneva. He will host Chinese President Xi Jinping next week, the highest-profile international visitor to Moscow since the start of the war, and is clearing his schedule to potentially attend the Group of 20 summit in India in September.
Underlining the largely symbolic nature of the warrant for Putin’s arrest, countries that aren’t currently ratified signatories to the Rome Statue of the ICC include China, India and the US, as well as Russia. While also not a member of the court, Ukraine has recognized the body’s jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed on Ukrainian territory for almost a decade, which gave the ICC grounds to issue the warrant against the Russian leader.
“He clearly committed war crimes,” Biden said outside the White House on Friday night. He called the warrant “justified,” adding that although the US does not recognize the court, “I think it makes a very strong point.”
Officials in Kyiv celebrated the move, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praising it as a step toward “historic accountability.”
Ukraine is investigating more than 16,000 alleged cases of forced deportation of children by Russia, Zelenskiy said in a video statement. So far, Ukraine has been able to bring home only slightly more than 300 children, he said.
While there have been cases where the immunity of an acting head of state was overruled by international judicial institutes — including the then-president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir — the step by the ICC against Putin is unique in its scope, according to lawyer Karinna Moskalenko, who represented Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once one of Russia’s richest men who fell out with Putin and spent years in a Russian prison.
“Never before has an arrest warrant been issued against a leader of a nuclear power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council,” Moskalenko said by phone from Strasbourg in France.
–With assistance from Ros Krasny and Aliaksandr Kudrytski.
(Updates with Biden, starting in seventh paragraph.)
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