(CNN) The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova over an alleged plot to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
The court said there are “reasonable grounds to believe that Putin is personally criminally responsible” for the alleged crimes, for having committed them directly alongside others, and “for his failure to properly supervise the civilian and military subjects who committed the acts.” “
The International Criminal Court charges related to the alleged practice, which have been reported by CNN and others, are the first formal charges brought against Moscow officials since it launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine last year.
The Kremlin has branded the ICC’s actions “outrageous and unacceptable”.
“We already consider asking the question outrageous and unacceptable. Russia, like many states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court, and therefore any decision of this kind is null and void in terms of the Russian Federation law,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tweeted on Friday.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the International Criminal Court for its “historic” decision and said in a speech Friday evening that Ukrainian investigations also pointed to the Kremlin’s direct involvement in the forced deportation of children to Russia.
“The criminal process investigated by law enforcement authorities has already recorded more than 16,000 forced deportations of Ukrainian children by the occupiers. But the actual number of those deported could be much higher,” he said. “Such a criminal operation would have been impossible without the orders of the supreme leader of the terrorist state.”
The message of Friday’s orders “must be that basic principles of humanity bind everyone,” Attorney General Karim Khan said in an exclusive interview with CNN later Friday.
“No one should feel like they have free access. No one should feel like they can act with rejection. And certainly no one should feel like they can act and commit genocide or crimes against humanity or war crimes with impunity,” he told CNN’s Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward . in The Hague.
When asked if he believed Putin would one day be impeached, Khan pointed to the historic trials of Nazi war criminals, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević and former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, among others.
“All of them were great, powerful individuals, and yet they found themselves in courtrooms,” he said.
Russia – like the United States, Ukraine and China – is not a member of the ICC. Since the court does not conduct trials in absentia, indicted Russian officials would have to either extradite Moscow or be detained outside Russia.
Allegations of war crimes
A senior Ukrainian official told CNN on Monday that Kiev has been pressing the International Criminal Court for some time to seek arrest warrants for Russian figures related to the war in Ukraine.
The Russian government does not deny taking Ukrainian children and has made their adoption by Russian families a focus of propaganda.
In April, the office of Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Lvova-Belova, announced that around 600 children from Ukraine had been placed in orphanages in Kursk and Nizhny Novgorod before being sent to live with families in the Moscow region.
According to the governor of the Moscow region, in mid-October, 800 children from the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine lived in the Moscow region, many with their families.
Some of the children have ended up thousands of kilometers and several time zones away from Ukraine. According to Lvova-Belova’s office, Ukrainian children have been sent to institutions and foster families in 19 different regions of Russia, including Novosibirsk, Omsk and Tyumen regions in Siberia and Murmansk in the Arctic.
Lvova-Belova rejected the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant against her and said it was “great” that the international community appreciated her work for children, Russian state news agency TASS reported on Friday.
“It’s great that the international community has appreciated the work to help the children of our country, that we don’t leave them in war zones, that we take them away, that we create good conditions for them, that we surround them with love, caring people,” he told reporters, according to TASS. “Every country, even Japan, had sanctions against me, now there is an arrest warrant, I wonder what will happen next. And we will continue to work.”
Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andry Yermak, said on Telegram on Friday that the arrest warrant for Putin was “just the beginning.”
“The world has received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and that its leadership and accomplices will be brought to justice,” Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin added on Facebook on Friday.
“This means Putin must be arrested outside of Russia and brought to justice. And world leaders will think twice before shaking hands or sitting at the negotiating table with him.”
Human Rights Watch called the ICC decision “a wake-up call to others who commit or cover up abuses.”
“This is a big day for the many victims of crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since 2014. With these arrest warrants, the ICC has made Putin a wanted man and taken the first step to end the impunity that has fueled the perpetrators of Russia’s war against Ukraine for far too long,” NGO International Justice deputy director Balkees Jarrah said in a statement on Friday.
“The warrants send a clear message that ordering or tolerating serious crimes against civilians can lead to a prison cell in The Hague. Court warrants are a wake-up call to others who commit wrongdoing or cover them up that their day in court may be coming due to their rank or status.” regardless,” Jarrah said.
court of “last resort”.
Moscow rejected the permit on Friday. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the court is “irrelevant” to the country, “including from a ‘legal point of view.'” Russia withdrew from the ICC treaty under a directive signed by Putin in 2016.
“Russia is not a member of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and has no obligations under it. Russia does not cooperate with this body, and it is possible [pretences] as an arrest from an international court is legally null and void for us,” he said.
Former Russian President and Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev tweeted: “The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin. No need to explain WHERE this paper should be used” along with toilet paper. emoji.
News of the options was welcomed on the streets of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Friday, but some doubted whether it would lead to action.
Victoria Tkachenko, a 64-year-old museum worker, told CNN the permits were “good news” but were realistic about how long the legal process could take.
“I support and welcome the news because Ukraine is fighting against the aggressor. The year of war has shown that this fight is difficult despite all the help,” Tkatsenko said. “All trials are long and detailed works. Although it will take a long time, I am still optimistic about the outcome.”
Olexandra Zahubynoga, a 20-year-old student and teacher, praised the ICC for raising awareness of the issue, telling CNN: “The fact that this is being brought to the public is good and I support it. I’d like to believe (that the arrest warrant will have practical results), but honestly that being said, I doubt it, because most international organizations are very concerned, they say a lot, but I don’t see any obvious action myself.”
Meanwhile, Serhii Voloshenyuk, a 44-year-old businessman, said that while he believes the arrest warrants are “significant and important,” he doesn’t think they will be seen that way in Moscow.
“Russia itself is a criminal country and it behaves according to its own rules,” he said.
He added: “I would like to see Putin go to jail and sit in prison, just like the Yugoslav war criminals are imprisoned in The Hague.”
International Criminal Court President Piotr Hofmanski told CNN on Friday that the ICC’s arrest warrants were not “magic wands” but that he believed they had a “deterrent effect” amid Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine, acting as a form of “coercion” on individuals.
Asked if the ICC would ask signatory countries to arrest Putin if he travels to them, Hofmanski referred to the ICC Statute and said: “All states parties have a legal obligation to cooperate fully with the court, which means they have an obligation to carry out the arrest. And that is indeed one of the arrest warrants of the main effects, it is a kind of sanction because the person cannot leave the country.”
“There are 123 states, two-thirds of the states in the world, where he is not saved,” Hofmanski continued.
The ICC is based in The Hague, Netherlands and was created by a treaty called the Rome Statute, which was first presented to the UN. The ICC operates independently. Most of the world’s countries – 123 of them – are parties to the treaty, but there are very large and significant exceptions, including Russia.
The International Criminal Court is meant to be a “last resort” and not to replace a country’s legal system. The court, which has 18 judges for nine-year terms, hears four types of crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes.
On Thursday, the UN stated in its report that Russia “has committed a wide range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law” in Ukraine.
The report claims that war crimes committed by the Russians included “attacks on civilians and energy-related infrastructure, deliberate killings, illegal detentions, torture, rape and other sexual violence, and illegal transfers and deportations of children.”
Its findings also documented a small number of violations by Ukrainian forces, “including probable indiscriminate attacks and two incidents of shooting, wounding and torture of Russian prisoners of war that could amount to war crimes,” the UN human rights statement said.
CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Gul Tuysuz, Svitlana Vlasova, Dima Olenchenko, Uliana Pavlova, Hira Humayun, Olga Voitovych, Ivana Kottasová, Yulia Kesaieva and Richard Roth contributed reporting.