ICC orders: Arrest Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with the head of Federal Financial Monitoring Service at the Kremlin in Moscow on 9 March. | Mikhail KLIMENTYEV/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The Hague, Netherlands (AFP) — The controversial International Criminal Court on Friday announced an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war crime accusation of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children.
The Hague-based ICC said it had also issued a warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights, on similar charges.
The arrest warrant for Putin, a sitting head of state of a UN Security Council member, is an unprecedented step for the ICC.
The ICC is similarly a hot topic in the Philippines as it has initiated an investigation into the war on drugs which the government though has contested, saying that it will encroach on the country’s sovereignty.
Moscow dismissed the orders as “void.” Russia is not a party to the ICC so it was unclear if or how Putin could ever end up in the dock.
War-battered Ukraine welcomed the ICC announcement, with President Volodymyr Zelensky hailing the “historic decision.”
Only if Putin steps out
The court’s shock notice came hours after other news with the potential to significantly impact Russia’s war on Ukraine, including a Moscow visit from Chinese leader Xi Jinping and more fighter jets for Kyiv’s forces.
More than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the 24 February 2022 invasion, according to Kyiv, with many allegedly placed in institutions and foster homes.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said Putin can be arrested if he sets foot in any of the court’s more than 120 member states.
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,” Khan said.
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 22 February.
ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said the execution of the warrants “depends on international cooperation.”
During a meeting with Putin in mid-February, Lvova-Belova said she adopted a 15-year-old child from the devastated Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
“Now I know what it means to be a mother of a child from Donbas — it is a difficult job but we love each other, that is for sure,” she told Putin.
She added: “We evacuated children to safe areas, arranged rehabilitation and prosthetics for them, and provided them with targeted humanitarian assistance.”
Set up in 2002, the ICC is a court of last resort for the world’s worst crimes, when countries cannot or will not prosecute suspects.
Prosecutor Khan launched an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine just days after Russia’s invasion.
Khan recently posted pictures from a visit to Ukraine alongside empty cots in an empty children’s care home, and said that investigating alleged child abduction was a “priority.”
“It’s poignant,” he said. “One sees empty cribs and empty beds juxtaposed with paintings by those children on the walls.”
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