International Court Issues War Crimes Warrant for Putin
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday charging him in relation to the ongoing abductions of children from Ukraine.
The move marks the first time a leader of one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council has been indicted by the international tribunal.
It came as China’s President Xi Jinping was about to embark on a three-day trip to Moscow in an apparent show of support for Putin.
And it was immediately hailed as a banner development by the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The decision by the ICC to issue an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin is a giant step in the right direction for the international community,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “It is more than justified by the evidence.”
The court said in a statement that Putin “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of (children) and that of unlawful transfer of (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
It also issued a warrant Friday for the arrest of Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, on similar allegations.
In a statement on the court’s website, prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan said, “Incidents identified by my office include the deportation of at least hundreds of children taken from orphanages and children’s care homes.
“Many of these children, we allege, have since been given for adoption in the Russian Federation. The law was changed in the Russian Federation, through presidential decrees issued by President Putin, to expedite the conferral of Russian citizenship, making it easier for them to be adopted by Russian families.
“My office alleges that these acts, amongst others, demonstrate an intention to permanently remove these children from their own country. At the time of these deportations, the Ukrainian children were protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention,” Khan continued.
“We also underlined in our application that most acts in this pattern of deportations were carried out in the context of the acts of aggression committed by Russian military forces against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine which began in 2014.
“We must ensure that those responsible for alleged crimes are held accountable and that children are returned to their families and communities. As I stated at the time, we cannot allow children to be treated as if they are the spoils of war,” he said.
Putin and other officials in Moscow have repeatedly denied accusations that Russian forces have committed atrocities during its one-year invasion of Ukraine, and on Friday the Kremlin branded the court’s decision as “null and void” with respect to Russia.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said today that the arrest warrants had “no meaning for our country” as it is not a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty underpinning the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal.
While it is unlikely that Putin will end up in court any time soon, the warrant does serve to further isolate the Russian president in that he now can be arrested and sent to The Hague if he travels to any ICC member state.
Meanwhile, Ukraine Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said in a Twitter post that with the indictment, “the world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable.”
Graham was the first high-ranking elected official in the U.S. to comment on the indictment.
“To forgive and forget Putin’s war crimes — that are occurring on an industrial scale — would irrevocably damage the rule of law–based world order established at the end of World War II,” the senator said.
“While I have no illusions that Putin will ever turn himself in, this arrest warrant is extremely significant because it’s an action of an international evidence-based body that will stand the test of history. It will also make Putin’s travel options in the future very limited,” he continued, adding, “I hope President Xi, a communist dictator who plans to meet with Putin next week, understands that he is openly embracing one of the worst war criminals in history.”