The Hague: The International Criminal Court (ICC) has on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on alleged war crime charges related to a scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights, has also been charged with a similar crime connected to deporting Ukrainian children to Russia and other countries.
The Hague-based ICC stated that there are reasonable grounds to believe that “Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the alleged crimes, for having committed them directly alongside others, and for “his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.”
The ICC charges are the first to be formally lodged against officials in Moscow since it began its unprovoked attack on Ukraine last year.
The Kremlin, however, refused to recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction and labeled its actions as “outrageous and unacceptable.”
“Russia, like a number of states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and, accordingly, any decisions of this kind are null and void for the Russian Federation from the point of view of law,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tweeted on Friday.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the ICC for its “historic” decision, saying in his nightly address on Friday that Ukraine’s investigations also suggest the Kremlin had direct involvement in the forced deportation of children into Russia.
“In the criminal proceedings being investigated by our law enforcement officers, more than 16,000 forced deportations of Ukrainian children by the occupier have already been recorded. But the real, full number of deportees may be much higher,” he said. “Such a criminal operation would have been impossible without the order of the highest leader of the terrorist state.”
ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said the message from Friday’s warrants “must be that basic principles of humanity bind everybody”.
“Nobody should feel they have a free pass. Nobody should feel they can enact with abandon. And definitely nobody should feel they can act and commit genocide or crimes against humanity or war crimes with impunity,”Khan said at The Hague, Netherlands.
Asked if he believed that one day Putin would be in the dock, Khan pointed to historic trials of Nazi war criminals, former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milošević, and former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, among others.
Russia – like the US, Ukraine and China – is not a member of the ICC. As the court does not conduct trials in absentia, any Russian officials charged would either have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside of Russia.
Kyiv has been pushing the ICC for some time to seek arrest warrants against Russian individuals in relation to the war in Ukraine.
The Russian government doesn’t deny taking Ukrainian children and has made their adoption by Russian families a centerpiece of propaganda.
In April, Lvova-Belova, the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights, said that around 600 children from Ukraine had been placed in orphanages in Kursk and Nizhny Novgorod before being sent to live with families in the Moscow region.
As of mid-October, 800 children from Ukraine’s eastern Donbas area were living in the Moscow region, many with families, according to the Moscow regional governor.
Some of the children have ended up thousands of miles and several time zones away from Ukraine. Ukrainian kids have been sent to live in institutions and with foster families in 19 different Russian regions, including Novosibirsk, Omsk and Tyumen regions in Siberia and Murmansk in the Arctic.
Lvova-Belova dismissed the ICC’s arrest warrant against her, saying it was “great” that the international community appreciated her work for children, according to Russian state news agency TASS on Friday.
Human Rights Watch called the ICC decision a “wakeup call to others committing abuses or covering them up.”
Also Read: India is not Taiwan or South Korea: Iranian Ambassador