By Abimbola Ogunnaike
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin on war crime accusations, while the Kremlin rejected the warrant and said the court has no jurisdiction and the decision is “null and void”.
The Hague-based court said in a statement on Friday, 17 March, 2023 that the arrest warrant was issued over Putin’s alleged involvement in the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the alleged 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,” the statement added.
The international court has also issued a warrant for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for children’s rights in the office of the Russian president, on the same charges.
The ICC has no powers to enforce its own warrants as ICC member states can make the arrests and hand over the individuals to the Huge.
Russia has repeatedly rejected accusations of committing war crimes by its forces during the year-long war in Ukraine.
Reacting to the development, the Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that his country did not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC. Describing the questions raised by the court as “outrageous and unacceptable”, he stressed that any decisions of the court were “null and void” with respect to Russia.
Furthermore, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the warrant is meaningless.
“The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” she said on her Telegram channel, adding, “Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it.”
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin lauded ICC’s decision as “a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire international law system” and said that “it is only the beginning of the long road to restore justice.”
The ICC decision was also welcomed by European Union Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, who described it as “an important decision of international justice and for the people of Ukraine.”
The move was just the start of “holding Russia accountable” for its alleged crimes in Ukraine, he said.
Russia launched the military operation in Ukraine in late February 2022, following Kiev administration’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
Over the past year, Western countries, led by the United States, have shipped billions of dollars worth of weaponry to Kiev while slapping unprecedented economic sanctions on Moscow to force it into submission.
Amid the Western support for Ukraine, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan opened an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine a year ago. He made four trips to Ukraine, noting that he was looking at alleged crimes against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure.
In a statement on Friday, Khan claimed that hundreds of Ukrainian children have been taken from orphanages and children’s homes to Russia. “Many of these children, we allege, have since been given up for adoption in the Russian Federation,” he added.
According to Khan, Moscow has changed laws to facilitate the adoption of children by Russian families while Ukrainian children at the time of deportation are protected individuals under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Today’s arrest warrants were “a first concrete step”, he said, noting that other investigations into the Ukraine war are still ongoing.