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International Criminal Court issues arrest warrant for Putin on alleged Ukraine war crimes

Laura King, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

AMSTERDAM — The International Criminal Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and one of his government ministers — a largely symbolic step, but one that could resonate powerfully with those hoping to see top Kremlin leaders held to account for a brutal war.

The warrants, the first issued in connection with the year-old Ukraine conflict, cites alleged involvement by Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, in the deportations and transfer of thousands of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine in the wake of last February’s invasion.

Ukraine has said that at least 10,000 Ukrainian children were believed to have been deported to Russia without their parents. Lvova-Belova in particular has lauded the practice of bringing Ukrainian children to Russia, and previously disclosed her own “adoption” of at least one Ukrainian child.

Putin, ICC judges said in a court-issued statement from The Hague, Netherlands, bears ultimate responsibility for the transfers, which constitute war crimes.

Russia does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction, and there is virtually no chance that Moscow would hand over Putin, or for that matter, any other suspects, in the absence of some dramatic development such as regime change.

But Ukrainian officials hailed the court’s move as a landmark step toward attaining accountability.


“Wheels of justice are turning,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Human rights groups applauded the court’s actions, even while acknowledging its practical limitations.

“The ICC has made Putin a wanted man,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement. It called the warrant a first step toward ending “the impunity that has emboldened perpetrators in Russia’s war against Ukraine.”

The court’s action hands Putin membership in an exclusive but undesirable club. ICC arrest warrants have only ever been issued for two other serving presidents: Sudan’s Omar al Bashir and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.


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