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International Criminal Court issues arrest warrant for Russian President Putin

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of bearing criminal responsibility for the abduction and forced deportation of Ukrainian children. Also charged by the Hague was Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation.

Putin and Lvova-Belova face the same charges “for the war crime of unlawful deportation of the population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”

The Hague said there “are reasonable grounds to believe that 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.”

Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said to CNN on Friday that the message of issuing the warrants is that the “basic principles of humanity bind everybody.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded by saying that the decisions of the International Criminal Court “have no meaning for Russia including from a legal point of view” as Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov took to Twitter to lambast the warrants. “We consider the very posing of the question 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.” 

Lvova-Belova defended her actions and referred to the children as Russians. “It’s great that the international community has appreciated the work to help the children of our country, that we don’t leave them in the war zone, that we take them out, that we create good conditions for them, surround them with loving caring people,” she said.

Related: US warns China to not send weapons and ammo to Russia

The International Criminal Court, the Hague, Netherlands. (Photo by Hypergio/Wikimedia Commons)

Russian parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, a sycophant of Putin, saw the U.S. behind the warrants. However, like Russia, the U.S. is not a signatory of the ICC and has no sway over it.

President Biden has characterized Putin as a war criminal and said he should face charges. 

While the Biden administration is keen to share evidence of Russian war crimes with the ICC, the Pentagon has balked since it sees this move by the ICC as setting a precedent and is concerned that the court could also investigate American troops for war crimes. This has caused some disputes within the administration. The American view has been that the ICC shouldn’t have jurisdiction over a country that is not a party to it. 

The court was established in 2002 and 123 countries are parties to it; both Russia and the U.S. had initially signed the Rome Statute before withdrawing their signature.

The ICC is not supposed to replace any country’s court system but is considered “a court of last resort.” There are 18 justices on the court, each serving for nine years. They only investigate four types of crimes: genocide; crimes against humanity; crimes of aggression; and war crimes. 

The chances of Putin or Lvova-Belova ever being tried are very slim. However, the decision also send a message to other Russians who may have committed war crimes and further isolates the Russian president from the international scene.

Feature Image: Russian President Putin (Kremlin Press Office)

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Steve Balestrieri