The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on March 17 that it had issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine.
Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC charged two individuals and recognised them in the context of the situation in Ukraine: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the office of the President of the Russian Federation.
Another war of narrative begins: Putin an international fugitive
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.
The arrest warrants come a day after UN investigators said Russia’s forced transfer and deportation of Ukrainian children to areas under its control amounts to a war crime.
Moscow dismissed the orders as “void”. Russia is not a party to the Hague-based ICC, so it was unclear if or how Vladimir Putin could ever end up in the dock. The bold legal move will obligate the court’s 123 member states to arrest Vladimir Putin and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory.
The ICC can impose a maximum sentence of life imprisonment “when justified by the extreme gravity of the crime,” according to its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, that established it as a permanent court of last resort to prosecute political leaders and other key perpetrators of the world’s worst atrocities – war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Will the Russian President Vladimir Putin submit to the scrutiny, chances are highly unlikely and quite slim as Moscow does not recognise ICC.
In Washington, President Joe Biden called the ICC’s decision “justified.” Biden said it “makes a very strong point” to call out the Russian leader’s actions in ordering the invasion.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the ICC, although Kyiv granted it jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed on its territory. Besides Russia and Ukraine, the United States and China are not members of the 123-member ICC.
It was the first time the global court had issued a warrant against a leader of one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Its practical implications could be limited. However, the moral condemnation will likely stain the Russian leader for the rest of his life. Analysts have claimed Vladimir Putin as the global pariah.
Ukrainian officials and human-rights groups hailed the warrant as an important step in holding Moscow to account for abuses during its year-long war. The country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said the warrant represented the beginning of “historical responsibility.”
Over the last year, the prosecution and the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office have been gathering evidence from a multitude of countries and individual sources.
More than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the February 24, 2022, invasion, according to Kyiv, with many allegedly placed in institutions and foster homes.
“Hundreds of Ukrainian children have been taken from orphanages and children’s homes to Russia,” ICC Chief prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement. “Many of these children, we allege, have since been given up for adoption in the Russian Federation.”
He also highlighted during four trips to Ukraine that he was looking at alleged crimes against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure.
The alleged acts “demonstrate an intention to permanently remove these children from their own country. At the time of these deportations, the Ukrainian children were protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
A US-backed report by Yale University researchers declared Russia had held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children in at least 43 camps and other facilities as part of a “large-scale systematic network”.
Russia, in its defence, said that it has not concealed a programme under which it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, but presents it as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone.
With fighting still raging in Ukraine, Kyiv welcomed the news on March 17 that Slovakia will donate 13 MiG-29 warplanes. Ukraine has long requested fighter jets from Western allies, although seeking primarily modern US-made F-16s.
The Ukraine-Russia war seems to be far from its culmination point. Is the west purposefully stirring so that the lowering temperature of the international community regarding the crisis could ramp up? The west is not ready to simmer things down. This is a new snag in this crisis.