Putin: ICC issues war crimes arrest warrant for Russian president

(CNN) The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova over an alleged plan to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

The court said there are “reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin is individually criminally responsible” for the alleged crimes, for having committed them with others, and for “his failure to exercise proper control exercise over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.”

The ICC charges, which relate to an alleged practice reported by CNN and others, are the first formally filed against officials in Moscow since it began its unprovoked attack on Ukraine last year.

The Kremlin has labeled the ICC’s actions as “outrageous and unacceptable”.

“We consider the posing of the question itself outrageous and unacceptable. Russia, like a number of states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and therefore such decisions are null and void for the Russian Federation from the point of view of law,” Kremlin spokesman tweeted Dmitry Peskov Friday.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the ICC for its “historic” decision, saying in his nightly speech on Friday that Ukraine’s investigations also suggest the Kremlin was directly involved in the forced deportation of children to Russia.

“More than 16,000 forced deportations of Ukrainian children by the occupying forces have already been recorded in the criminal proceedings being investigated by our law enforcement officers. But the real, full number of deportees could be much higher,” he said. “Such a criminal operation would have been impossible without the order of the supreme leader of the terrorist state.”

The message of Friday’s arrest warrants “should be that basic principles of humanity bind everyone,” chief prosecutor Karim Khan said in an exclusive interview with CNN later on Friday.

“No one should feel they have free passage. No one should feel they can act with abandon. And certainly no one should feel they can act with impunity and commit genocide or crimes against humanity or war crimes. perpetrate,” he told CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward on The Hague.

Asked if he believed Putin would one day be in the dock, Khan pointed to historic trials of Nazi war criminals, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević and former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, among others.

“They were all powerful, powerful individuals and yet they were in courtrooms,” he said.

Russia – like the US, Ukraine and China – is not a member of the ICC. Since the court does not conduct trials in absentia, all indicted Russian officials would have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside Russia.

War crimes allegations

A senior Ukrainian official told CNN on Monday that Kiev has been pressuring the ICC for some time to seek arrest warrants against Russian individuals in connection with the war in Ukraine.

The Russian government does not deny taking Ukrainian children and has made their adoption by Russian families the center of its propaganda.

In April, the office of Lvova-Belova, Russia’s children’s rights commissioner, said about 600 children from Ukraine had been placed in orphanages in Kursk and Nizhny Novgorod before being sent to families in the Moscow region.

By mid-October, 800 children from the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine were living in the Moscow region, many with families, according to the Moscow regional governor.

Some children are thousands of miles and different time zones away from Ukraine. According to the Lvova-Belova office, Ukrainian children have been sent to institutions and foster homes in 19 different Russian regions, including the Novosibirsk, Omsk and Tyumen regions of Siberia and Murmansk in the Arctic.

Lvova-Belova rejected the ICC’s arrest warrant against her, saying it was “great” that the international community appreciated her work for children, Russia’s state news agency TASS said on Friday.

“It is great that the international community appreciates the work to help the children of our country, that we do not leave them in the war zones, that we take them out, that we create good conditions for them, that we surround them with loving, caring people,” she told reporters, according to TASS. “There were sanctions against all countries, even Japan, in connection with me. Now there is an arrest warrant. I wonder what will happen next. And we keep working.”

Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andry Yermak, said on Telegram on Friday that the arrest warrant against Putin was “just the beginning”.

“The world has received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and that its leaders and accomplices will be brought to justice,” Ukraine’s Attorney General, Andriy Kostin, added in a Facebook post on Friday.

“This means that Putin must be arrested outside Russia and brought to justice. And world leaders will think twice before shaking his hand or sitting down with him at the negotiating table.”

Human Rights Watch called the ICC decision a “wake-up call to others who perpetrate or cover up abuse.”

“This is a big day for the many victims of crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since 2014. With these arrest warrants, the ICC has made Putin a wanted man and taken the first step towards ending the impunity that the perpetrators in the Russian war.” against Ukraine for far too long,” Balkees Jarrah, the NGO’s Associate International Justice Director, said in a statement Friday.

“The arrest warrants send a clear signal that issuing orders to commit or tolerate serious crimes against civilians can lead to a prison cell in The Hague. The court’s arrest warrants are a wake-up call for others who perpetrate or cover up abuses that may be their day in court.” regardless of their rank or position,” Jarrah said.

Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian children’s rights commissioner, is also accused of war crimes.

Court of ‘last resort’

Moscow rejected the order on Friday. Maria Zakharova, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said the court has “no meaning” for the country, “not even from a “legal point of view”.

“Russia is not a member of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it. Russia does not cooperate with this body and may [pretences] for arrest coming from the International Court of Justice will be legally null and void for us,” she said.

Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian President and Vice Chairman of the Security Council of Russia, wrote on Twitter: “The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin. There is no need to explain WHERE to use this paper” along with a toilet paper emoji.

News of the arrest warrants was welcomed on the streets of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Friday, but some doubted it would lead to action.

Victoria Tkachenko, a 64-year-old museum worker, told CNN the warrants were “great news” but was realistic about how long legal proceedings could take.

“I support and welcome the news because Ukraine is fighting an aggressor. The war year has shown that this struggle, even with all the help, is difficult,” Tkachenko said. “All legal proceedings are long and detailed work. Even if it takes a long time, I am still optimistic about the outcome.”

Twenty-year-old college student and teacher Olexandra Zahubynoga praised the ICC for raising awareness of the issue, telling CNN: “The fact that this is being brought to the public is good and I support it. I would like to believe (that the arrest order will bring practical results), but to be honest I have my doubts because most international organizations are very concerned, they say a lot of things, but I personally don’t see any obvious action.”

Meanwhile, Serhii Voloshenyuk, a 44-year-old businessman, said that while he believes the arrest warrants are “meaningful and important,” he doesn’t think they will be seen that way in Moscow.

“Russia itself is a criminal country and behaves by its own rules,” he said.

He added: “I would like to see Putin locked up and serving time in prison, just like the Yugoslav war criminals are locked up in The Hague.”

Exterior view of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

ICC President Judge Piotr Hofmanski told CNN Friday that the ICC arrest warrants were “not magic wands” but that he believed in their “deterrent” effects amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, as they act as a sort of “sanction for the individuals.

When asked if the ICC is asking signatory countries to arrest Putin if he travels to them, Hofmanski referred to the ICC statute and said: “All states parties have a legal obligation to fully cooperate with the court, which means they are obliged to make arrests.” arrest warrants issued by the court. And it is indeed one of the main effects of the arrest warrants, which is a kind of sanction, because the person cannot leave the country.”

“There are 123 states, two-thirds of the world’s states in which he will not be saved,” Hofmanski continued.

Based in The Hague, Netherlands, and created by a treaty called the Rome Statute that was first submitted to the United Nations, the ICC operates independently. Most countries on Earth – 123 of them – are parties to the treaty, but there are very large and notable exceptions, including Russia.

The ICC is intended to be a court of “last resort” and is not intended to replace a country’s legal system. The court, which has 18 judges serving nine-year terms, tries four types of crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes.

The UN found in a report on Thursday that Russia has committed “a wide range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law” in Ukraine.

The report alleges that Russia’s war crimes include “attacks against civilians and energy-related infrastructure, willful killings, unlawful imprisonment, torture, rape and other sexual violence, as well as unlawful renditions and deportations of children.”

The findings also documented a small number of violations committed by the Ukrainian armed forces, “including likely indiscriminate attacks and two incidents that qualified as war crimes, in which Russian prisoners of war were shot, wounded and tortured,” according to the United Nations human rights statement.

CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Gul Tuysuz, Svitlana Vlasova, Dima Olenchenko, Uliana Pavlova, Hira Humayun, Olga Voitovych, Ivana Kottasová, Yulia Kesaieva, Richard Roth contributed reporting

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