The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges of ‘illegal deportation’ of Ukrainian children.
The International Court of Justice, based in The Hague, said it had also issued warrants against the Russian presidential commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Leva Belova, on the same charges.
Russia is not a member of the ICC, so it is unclear how the ICC would facilitate the execution of the warrant.
The ICC said in a statement: ‘Today Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for two individuals, including Mr Vladimir Putin and Maria Lova Belova, in the context of the situation in Ukraine. ‘
“Putin is allegedly responsible for alleged war crimes such as the illegal deportation of the civilian population (children) and their illegal transfer from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation,” the statement added.
The ICC said the crimes began on February 24 last year when Russia invaded Ukraine.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin is individually responsible for these crimes,” the statement said.
The court said that the arrest warrant is being kept confidential to protect the victims and witnesses.
The ICC is the final court for crimes that countries cannot prosecute, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
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ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan launched an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine just days after the Russian invasion.
Karim Khan had said after his visit to Ukraine at the beginning of this month that ‘my office is investigating the alleged abduction of children as a priority.’
He said in a statement on March 7 that ‘children cannot be considered spoils of war.’
Posting a photo of himself with empty beds, Karim Khan said he had visited a care home for children in southern Ukraine where children were allegedly being transported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation or other occupied territories. Then it was deserted.
Karim Khan also confirmed that the ICC was investigating attacks on ‘sensitive civilian infrastructure’ in Ukraine and that he had personally visited the sites of several such attacks.
He added that with the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, ‘we have underlined our collective commitment to ensure that such acts are fully investigated and those responsible for alleged international crimes are held accountable. .’
The ICC prosecutor added in the statement that he feels the pace for justice is accelerating.
After visiting the town of Bucha, Karim Khan had described Ukraine as a ‘scene of crime’. AFP saw at least 20 bodies lying in a street in the town.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the ICC, but Kiev recognizes the court’s jurisdiction and is working with Karim Khan’s office.
Russia denies allegations of war crimes against its soldiers.
Experts have said it is unlikely that the Kremlin will ever hand over a Russian citizen to the International Court of Justice.