The Hague: The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on the charge of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children. The ICC, based in The Hague, also issued a warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights, on similar charges. The ICC’s announcement has been welcomed by war-torn Ukraine, with President Volodymyr Zelensky hailing the “historic decision.”
According to Kyiv, more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the February 2022 invasion, with many allegedly placed in institutions and foster homes. The ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, stated that Putin would be liable for arrest if he set foot in any of the court’s more than 120 member states. He added that the arrest warrants were “based upon forensic evidence, scrutiny, and what’s been said by those two individuals.”
The ICC’s move is an unprecedented step, given that Putin is a sitting head of state of a UN Security Council member. Russia is not a party to the ICC, raising questions about how Putin could end up in the dock. The execution of the warrants “depends on international cooperation,” according to ICC President Piotr Hofmanski.
The Kremlin has dismissed the ICC’s decision, stating that “Russia, just like a number of different countries, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court, and so from a legal point of view, the decisions of this court are void.” The ICC’s prosecutor, however, cited examples of other war criminals who have faced justice despite believing they were beyond the reach of the law.
The arrest warrants come a day after UN investigators accused Russia of committing war crimes by forcibly transferring and deporting Ukrainian children to areas under its control. While neither Russia nor Ukraine is a member of the ICC, Kyiv has accepted the court’s jurisdiction and is working with Khan’s office. The United States, which is not a member of the ICC, has welcomed the decision, with President Joe Biden stating that the warrant is “justified.”