ICC warrant for Putin’s arrest on suspicion of war crimes in Ukraine
The International Criminal Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president. Vladimir Putin and one of his ministers is largely a symbolic move, but one that could resonate strongly with those who hope top Kremlin leaders will be held accountable for brutal war.
Warrants first issued in connection with summer Ukrainian conflictrefers to the alleged involvement of Putin and children’s rights ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova in deportations and transfers from thousands of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine after invasion last February.
Ukraine said at least 10,000 Ukrainian children were deported to Russia without their parents. Lvova-Belova, in particular, has praised the practice of bringing Ukrainian children to Russia and has previously reported her own “adoption” of at least one Ukrainian child.
Putin, as ICC judges said in a court statement from The Hague, bears ultimate responsibility for these transmissions, which constitute war crimes.
Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC, and there is virtually no chance that Moscow will extradite Putin or, for that matter, any other suspects in the absence of any dramatic events, such as regime change.
But Ukrainian officials hailed the court’s decision as a milestone. step towards accountability.
“The wheels of justice are turning,” Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba tweeted.
Human rights groups have welcomed the court’s actions, although they acknowledged its practical limitations.
“The ICC put Putin on a wanted list,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement. He called the warrant the first step towards ending “the impunity that has galvanized those responsible for Russia’s war against Ukraine.”
By court order, Putin receives membership in an exclusive but unwanted club. ICC arrest warrants have only been issued to two other sitting presidents: Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
Russia has again ridiculed the idea that the ICC has any influence on issues related to Ukraine. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on messaging app Telegram that the court’s actions are meaningless for Russia – “legally void.”
The court does not have police powers, and its chairman, Piotr Hofmansky, said in a video message that any steps to enforce the warrants must be taken by the international community.
One of the immediate consequences for anyone named in ICC warrants is the difficulty of traveling to countries that accept the court’s jurisdiction. While Putin and his senior aides rarely visit such countries, the warrants are a powerful rebuke and another sign of Moscow’s isolation.
The issuance of the warrant comes just days before China’s top leader Xi Jinping is due to visit Russia, in a continuation of an awkward alliance over Ukraine. The two countries expressed solidarity shortly before the invasion, but China appears to be wary of some of Putin’s Ukraine-related moves, including nuclear saber strikes. China did not immediately comment on the court’s decision.
Like Russia, Ukraine is not a member of the court. However, he granted the ICC jurisdiction over his territory. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan launched an investigation in the early days of the war and visited Ukraine four times since then.
In its statement, the ICC cited “reasonable grounds” for believing that Putin and Lvova-Belova were responsible for the transfers. But in the case of the Russian leader, the case went even further, stating that there were also grounds for individual criminal responsibility based on his “failure to exercise due control over the civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts in question,” including the kidnapping of children.
Although Russia categorically denies committing war crimes in Ukraine, it has openly spoken about the transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia, but calling such transfers a humanitarian gesture.
Last spring, the Russian president personally issued a decree facilitating the formal adoption of Ukrainian children by Russians.
The arrest warrant was issued a day after a UN-backed report on Russian war crimes in Ukraine, including the killing and torture of civilians in Russian-occupied territories, was released.
This investigation also concerned the issue of forced deportation of Ukrainians, including children.
For Ukrainians, arrest warrants are a serious moral boost at a difficult time in the war. Ukraine is openly worried about the need for timely Western deliveries of the latest weapons, which the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky says the country badly needs to launch a convincing spring offensive in the coming weeks.
Both sides were locked in ugly exhaustion battle for the eastern city of Bakhmutwith huge losses on both sides, although Western analysts believe that Russia is seeing significantly higher losses in troops and equipment.