The International Criminal Court on Friday, March 17 issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes over his alleged involvement in abductions of children from Ukraine.
In an unprecedented move, 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.
Even if the court has court has indicted world leaders before, it was the first time it issued a warrant against one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
The move was immediately dismissed by Moscow but welcomed by Ukraine.
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 is unlikely though as Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia doesn’t recognize the ICC and considers its decisions “legally void.” He added that Russia considers the court’s move “outrageous and unacceptable.”
Peskov them refused to comment when asked if Putin would avoid making trips to countries where he could be arrested on the ICC’s warrant.
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 to AP. “Everyone must be punished for their crimes.”
“The world changed,” Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Twitter.
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.”
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.”
The court statement said that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the child abductions “for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others (and) for his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.
After his most recent visit, in early March, ICC prosecutor Khan said he visited a care home for children two kilometers (just over a mile) from front lines in southern Ukraine.
“The drawings pinned on the wall … spoke to a context of love and support that was once there. But this home was empty, a result of alleged deportation of children from Ukraine to the Russian Federation or their unlawful transfer to other parts of the temporarily occupied territories,” he said in a statement. “As I noted to the United Nations Security Council last September, these alleged acts are being investigated by my Office as a priority. Children cannot be treated as the spoils of war.”