ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 150

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International Criminal Court issues arrest warrant for Putin on suspected war crimes

Court cites Russian leader’s alleged involvement in abduction of Ukrainian children from occupied Ukrainian lands to Russian Federation; Kyiv welcomes action, Moscow dismisses it

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the social and economic development of Crimea and Sevastopol via a videoconference at the Moscow's Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 17, 2023. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the social and economic development of Crimea and Sevastopol via a videoconference at the Moscow's Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 17, 2023. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

THE HAGUE (AP) — The International Criminal Court said Friday it has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes because of his alleged involvement in abductions of children from Ukraine.

The court said in a statement that Putin “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”

It also issued a warrant Friday for the arrest of Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, on similar allegations.

A possible trial of any Russians at the ICC remains a long way off, as Moscow does recognize the court’s jurisdiction and does not extradite its nationals.

Ukraine also is not a member of the court, but it has granted the ICC jurisdiction over its territory and ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has visited four times since opening an investigation a year ago.

The ICC said that its pre-trial chamber found there were “reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children.”

Two taxi drivers carry Ukrainian refugee children in their arms, during a stop at a roadside restaurant in Burgos, on March 16, 2022. (CESAR MANSO / AFP)

The court statement said that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the child abductions “for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others (and) for his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.”

On Thursday, a UN-backed inquiry cited Russian attacks against civilians in Ukraine, including systematic torture and killing in occupied regions, among potential issues that amount to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

The sweeping investigation also found crimes committed against Ukrainians on Russian territory, including deported Ukrainian children who were prevented from reuniting with their families, a “filtration” system aimed at singling out Ukrainians for detention, and torture and inhumane detention conditions.

But on Friday, the ICC put the face of Putin on the child abduction allegations.

Moscow dismissed the ICC decisions, saying they “have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view.”

“Russia is not a party of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on social media.

“Russia does not cooperate with this body and possible ‘recipes’ for arrest coming from the international court will be legally void as far as we are concerned,” she said without referring to Putin by name.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s presidency said the ICC decision was just an initial step in restoring justice over Russia’s invasion.

“The Hague Chamber of the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin. This is just the beginning,” Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on social media.

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