On Friday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges of war crimes related to the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children. Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights, was also issued a warrant on similar charges. The ICC, based in The Hague, announced the warrants, which Russia promptly dismissed as “void.” Given that Russia is not a party to the ICC, it is unclear whether Putin could ever face trial.
Ukraine, which has been battered by war, welcomed the ICC announcement. President Volodymyr Zelensky called it a “historic decision.” According to Kyiv, over 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the February 24, 2022 invasion, with many reportedly placed in institutions and foster homes.
The ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, told AFP that Putin would be liable for arrest if he were to set foot in any of the court’s more than 120 member states. The court’s announcement came on the same day as other news with the potential to significantly impact Russia’s war on Ukraine, including a visit to Moscow by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the delivery of more fighter jets to Kyiv’s forces.
He said the arrest warrants were “based upon forensic evidence, scrutiny and what’s been said by those two individuals”.
“The evidence we presented focused on crimes against children. Children are the most vulnerable part of our society,” said Khan.
The ICC said judges found there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect Putin’s criminal responsibility and grant Khan’s application for the warrants, which were made back on February 22.
ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said the execution of the warrants “depends on international cooperation”.