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Russian President Vladimir Putin has been formally accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of war crimes and faces an arrest warrant, which the Kremlin considers illegitimate.
ICC president Piotr Hofmanski said in a video statement Friday that an arrest warrant has been issued for Putin for the “alleged war crimes of deportation of children from Ukrainian occupied territories into the Russian Federation.”
International law prohibits occupying powers from transferring civilians from occupied areas to other territories.
Hofmanski said the contents of the warrants would be kept secret to protect the identities of the allegedly abducted children.
“Nevertheless, the judges of the chamber dealing with this case decided to make the existence of the warrants public in the interest of justice and to prevent the commission of future crimes,” he said.
While the ICC’s judges have issued the warrants, it will be up to the international community to enforce them as the ICC has no police force of its own.
“The execution depends on international cooperation,” Hofmanski said.
While it’s unclear what type of international cooperation would lead to Putin’s arrest, Russia has made clear it has no intention of cooperating.
The Kremlin said earlier this week that it doesn’t acknowledge the ICC’s jurisdiction or authority.
“We do not recognize this court; we do not recognize its jurisdiction,” Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists in Moscow on Tuesday.
Peskov’s dismissal of the court’s authority came amid media speculation that ICC prosecutors would open two war crimes cases and issue several arrest warrants for those deemed responsible for the targeting of Ukrainian civilian infrastructure and for the mass abduction of children.
Besides seeking Putin’s arrest, the ICC on Friday also announced it had issued an arrest warrant for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, on similar allegations.
The ICC said in a statement that both Putin and Lvova-Belova are “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 crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian occupied territory at least from 24 February 2022,” the court said, which marks the date of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation.”
The arrest warrants come about a year after ICC prosecutor Karim Khan opened an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Ukraine.
Khan has said that, during four trips to Ukraine, he was looking at the alleged targeting of civilian infrastructure and crimes against children.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin hailed the ICC’s decision in a statement on social media.
“The world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable,” he said. “This is a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire system of international law.”
Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff, said the move was “just the beginning.”
There were no immediate comments from Russia following the ICC’s announcement.
On Thursday, a United Nations-backed inquiry accused Russia of committing numerous war crimes in Ukraine, including forcibly deporting children to Russian territory.
The ICC’s announcement came as Slovakia on Thursday announced that it would send its fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.
With the move, Slovakia joined Poland, which on March 16 became the first NATO country to send its fighter jets to its embattled neighbor.
Ukraine’s leaders have repeatedly asked Western powers for fighter jets to help them in the fight against Russian forces.
Analysts say that neither Moscow nor Kyiv has air superiority in the skies above Ukraine, with the decision to send in the jets seen as a potential turning point in repelling Russia’s offensive.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly requested jet fighters, while Washington and other NATO allies have refused, citing concern about escalating the alliance’s role in the conflict.
Peskov downplayed the decision to send Polish and Slovak planes to Ukraine.
“In the course of the special military operation, all this equipment will be subject to destruction,” Peskov said. “It feels like all of these countries are thus engaged in the disposal of old unnecessary equipment.”
Poland, which considers Russia’s regional ambitions a threat to its security, has been one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters since the conflict began.
Warsaw has already provided Ukraine with some 250 combat tanks and pledged dozens more last month, including advanced German-made Leopard tanks.
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