(AP) — The International Criminal Court said on Friday it issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes because of his alleged involvement in abductions of children from Ukraine.
The court said in a statement that Putin “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.”
It also issued a warrant Friday 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.
The court’s president, Piotr Hofmanski, said in a video statement that 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,” he said. “The judges issued arrest warrants. The execution depends on international cooperation.”
A possible trial of any Russians at the ICC remains a long way off, as Moscow does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction— a position reaffirmed on Friday by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in a first reaction to the warrants.
“The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” she said.
But Ukrainian officials were jubilant.
“The world changed,” said presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the “wheels of Justice are turning,” and added that “international criminals will be held accountable for stealing children and other international crimes.”
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 its pre-trial chamber found “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.