ICC issues war crimes warrant for Putin
THE HAGUE (AP):
The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Friday it issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes because of his alleged involvement in abductions of children from Ukraine.
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.
The move was immediately dismissed by Moscow and welcomed by Ukraine as a major breakthrough. Its practical implications, though, could well be negligible.
Even if the court has indicted world leaders before, it was the first time it issued a warrant against one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The court’s president, Piotr Hofmanski, said in a video statement that while the ICC’s judges have issued the warrants, it will be up to the international community to enforce them. The court has no police force of its own to enforce warrants.
“The ICC is doing its part of work as a court of law,” he said, “The judges issued arrest warrants. The execution depends on international cooperation.”
The chances of a trial of any Russians at the ICC remains extremely unlikely, as Moscow does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction, a position it vehemently reaffirmed on Friday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that Russia doesn’t recognise the ICC and considers its decisions “legally void”. He added that Russia considers the court’s move “outrageous and unacceptable”.
Peskov refused to comment when asked if Putin would avoid making trips to countries where he could be arrested on the ICC’s warrant.
Ukrainian officials were jubilant.
“The world changed,” said presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the “wheels of justice are turning,” and added that “international criminals will be held accountable for stealing children and other international crimes.”
Olga Lopatkina, a Ukrainian mother who struggled for months to reclaim her foster children who were deported to an institution ran by Russian loyalists, welcomed the news of the arrest warrant. “Good news!” she said in an exchange of messages with the Associated Press. “Everyone must be punished for their crimes.”
Ukraine also is not a member of the international court, but it has granted it jurisdiction over its territory and ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has visited four times since opening an investigation a year ago.
The ICC said its pre-trial chamber found “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.”