International Criminal Court issues arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin

International Criminal Court issues arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on social and economic development of Crimea and Sevastopol via video link in Moscow, Russia, March 17, 2023.

Mikhail Metzel | Sputnik | Reuters

WASHINGTON – The International Criminal Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on alleged war crimes committed during his invasion of Ukraine.

The court also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights.

Putin and Lvova-Belova are “allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation” of children from occupied Ukraine to Russia, the court wrote in a statement.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the forced deportation of Ukrainian children, the ICC said. The court alleged that he committed the offenses either directly or in collaboration with others, or failed to stop subordinates under his command.

The arrest warrants are the first issued by the ICC in response to the war in Ukraine, as officials across the country and around the world step up investigations into the horrors of Russia’s nearly 13-month onslaught. Investigators have uncovered allegations of forced deportations, torture, sexual violence and deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure, detailed in reports supported by the United Nations and other organizations.

The arrest warrant against Putin made no mention of alleged crimes beyond deportation.

Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, February 16, 2023.

Mikhail Metzel | Sputnik | Reuters

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan launched an investigation into possible Russian war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion in February last year. Khan, who has met several times with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has made at least three separate trips to visit sites across Ukraine to investigate alleged war crimes.

“Among the incidents identified by my office are the deportation of at least hundreds of children taken from orphanages and children’s homes,” Khan wrote in a statement.

“We claim that many of these children have since been put up for adoption in the Russian Federation. The law in the Russian Federation was changed by President Putin’s presidential decrees to speed up the granting of Russian citizenship and make it easier for them to be adopted by Russian families,” he added.

The Kremlin reiterated on Friday that it does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

“We consider the question to be outrageous and unacceptable. Russia, like a number of states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court, and accordingly, from the point of view of the Russian Federation, decisions of this kind are null and void of the law,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to a translation of NBC News.

Russia signed the Rome Statute in 2000, which established the International Criminal Court and its jurisdiction, but did not ratify the agreement to become a member.

Piotr Hofmanski, president of the International Criminal Court, said international authorities must enforce the arrest warrants because the court does not have a police force.

The Kremlin has previously denied that its forces are committing war crimes or targeting civilians. The Russian embassy in Washington, DC, did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

“The wheels of justice are turning,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “International criminals will be held accountable for child theft and other international crimes.”

Prosecutor General of Ukraine Andriy Kostin said separately: “This is a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire system of international law.”

“But this is just the beginning of a long road to restoring justice,” Kostin wrote on his official Telegram channel.

The prosecutor for war crimes of the Kharkiv region stands with a coroner and a police officer at the site of a mass burial in a forest during the exhumation September 16, 2022 in Izium, Ukraine.

Yevhenii Zavhorodnii | Global Pictures Ukraine | News from Getty Images | Getty Images

Kostin, who heads Ukraine’s prosecution of Russian war crimes, told reporters in Washington, DC last month that Ukrainian regional authorities have registered more than 65,000 crimes since the start of the Moscow conflict.

“We all saw with horror the evidence of atrocities in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, Kherson, Kharkiv and other liberated cities and towns,” Kostin said at the time. He said Ukrainian authorities had discovered mass graves in areas occupied by Russian troops.

Read more: UN report reveals horrific Ukrainian accounts of rape, torture and executions by Russian forces

Kostin added that the crimes “are not accidental or coincidental”. At the time, he said more than 75,000 buildings, including homes, schools and hospitals, were reduced to rubble.

“Consider this a giant amber alert”

A teddy bear is seen in the playground next to a destroyed apartment building on April 21, 2022 in Borodianka, Ukraine.

Alexei Furman | Getty Images

Last month, the Conflict Observatory, a program supported by the US State Department, announced that Russian forces have taken at least 6,000 Ukrainian children to camps and facilities across Russia for forced adoption and military training.

The allegations, detailed in the 35-page report titled “Russia’s systematic program for re-educating and adopting Ukrainian children,” lasted more than a year. He outlines the Kremlin’s systematic efforts to kidnap children, prevent their return to Ukraine and “re-educate” them for pro-Russian “re-education.”

“Consider this report a giant Amber Alert,” said Nathaniel Raymond, executive director of Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab, on a call with reporters at the time of its publication. He added that this is the “most consistent and comprehensive report” published on the subject to date.

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Raymond said researchers at the Conflict Observatory, working with Yale’s Humanitarian Research Lab, have discovered a network of at least 43 camps and facilities where Russian authorities are holding Ukrainian children.

The sites span Russia’s vast territory, as some are in Siberia, near the Ukrainian border or about 13,000 miles from Alaska, according to the report.

At the time, the Russian embassy in Washington called the allegations contained in the report “absurd”.

“We do our best to keep minors in families and to place orphans under guardianship in the event of the absence or death of parents and relatives. We ensure the protection of their lives and well-being,” Russian spokesman Igor Girenko wrote in a statement to CNBC last month.