The International Criminal Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, accusing him of being involved in abductions of children from Ukraine. Moscow, however, has denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during its one-year invasion of its neighbour.
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"He 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," the court said in a statement.
The court also issued a warrant 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.
Piotr Hofmanski, the court's president, in a video statement, said that the ICC issued the warrant for Putin's arrest over suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. While the ICC’s judges have issued the warrants, it will be up to the international community to enforce them. The court has no police force of its own to enforce warrants.
"The ICC is doing its part of work as a court of law. The judges issued arrest warrants. The execution depends on international cooperation," he said.
A possible trial of any Russians at the ICC remains a long way off, as Moscow does recognise the court’s jurisdiction — a position reaffirmed earlier this week by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov — 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."
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 U.N.-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.
Earlier this week Reuters reported that the court was expected to issue warrants, the first in its investigation into the Ukraine conflict.
With inputs from agencies.