Arrest warrant for Putin issued by ICC over alleged war crimes

London: An arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the deportation of children from Ukraine has been issued by judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The court, based in The Hague, said Putin was accused of “the war crime of unlawful deportation of population” and of “unlawful transfer of population”, specifically of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia since the start of the war.

ICC judges have issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.Credit:AP

It said the crimes were committed in Ukraine at least from February 25 last year when Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes,” the ICC said in a statement on Friday (UK time).

The court also said the Russian leader failed to exercise his rights to stop others who deported children. The judges also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, accusing her of the same crimes.

Russia has not concealed a program under which it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children across the border, but presents it as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone.

The court’s president, Piotr Hofmanski, said in a video statement that while the ICC’s judges have issued the warrants, it would be up to the international community to enforce them.

“The ICC is doing its part of work as a court of law. The judges issued arrest warrants. The execution depends on international cooperation,” he said.

The court has no powers to arrest suspects, and can only exercise jurisdiction within countries who are signed up to the agreement that set up the court. Russia is not a signatory to that agreement – so it is unlikely either will be extradited.

The warrants came a day after a United Nations-backed inquiry accused Russia of committing wide-ranging war crimes in Ukraine, including the forced deportations of children in areas it controls.

From the early days of the invasion last February, Kyiv has accused Russia of forcibly transferring children and adults.

There was no immediate comment by Russia following the ICC move.

Russian officials have consistently denied the accusations, calling them a “fantasy” aimed at discrediting Russia. Russia’s embassy to the US said last month that the country had taken in children who were forced to flee the fighting.

Ukraine also is not a member of the court, but it has granted the ICC jurisdiction over its territory and ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has visited four times since opening an investigation a year ago.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Andriy Kostin, hailed the court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant.

“The world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable,” he said in a statement on social media. “This is a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire system of international law.”

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