The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, saying he was responsible for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, including the “unlawful deportation” of children and the “unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes,” the ICC said in a statement.
This is only the second time the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for a sitting head of state, according to terrorism analyst Kyle Orton.
The ICC also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, for similar violations.
The Court said that it was making the previously-secret warrants public to raise awareness of the alleged crimes.
War crimes investigator Nathaniel Raymond told Semafor that Putin and Lvova-Belova now face “international condemnation” if they leave the country.
“The fact of the matter is that he is formally indicted,” Raymond said, adding that “justice has to start somewhere.”
Ukraine’s prosecutor general Andriy Kostin called ICC’s actions “historic.”
“The world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire system of international law.”
Before ICC’s public announcement, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that any arrest warrants from the ICC will be “legally null and void” in Russia as the country “does not bear obligations” under the Court’s Rome Statute and “does not cooperate” with it.
The Russian government has set up at least 43 child custody centers across the country, according to war crime investigators at Yale. In some instances, authorities have promoted these camps as "humanitarian programs" for Ukrainian refugees. The children at these centers are as young as 4 months.
A United Nations commission said Thursday that Russia's large-scale transfer and deportation of children from Ukraine amounts to a war crime.
The UN report also found evidence for other alleged war crimes, including attacks on civilians and energy infrastructure, unlawful confinement, torture, and sexual violence.
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