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ICC issues war crimes arrest warrant against Putin for alleged deportation of Ukrainian children

(CNN) The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president on Friday. Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova over an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

The court said that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that mr putin has individual criminal responsibility” for the alleged crimes, for having committed them directly together with others, and for “failing to exercise adequate control over the civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.”

The charges, which relate to an alleged practice that CNN and others have reported onthey are the first to come forward formally against officials in Moscow since it began its unprovoked attack on Ukraine last year.

The Kremlin called the ICC decision “outrageous and unacceptable.”

“We consider the mere raising of the issue outrageous and unacceptable. Russia, like a number of states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and, accordingly, any such decision is null and void for the Russian Federation from the point of view of the law,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tweeted on Friday.

A trial in The Hague remains unlikely; Russia is not a member of the ICC and the court does not make judgments in absentiaso any accused Russian officials would either have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside of Russia.

Earlier this month, CNN reported on 15-year-old Arina Yatsiuk, one of 345 Ukrainian children who have gone missing since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, according to official Ukrainian statistics.

The Ukrainian government says many of the missing children have been forcibly taken to Russia. The Russian government does not deny accepting Ukrainian children and has made their adoption by Russian families a centerpiece of propaganda.

A senior Ukrainian official told CNN on Monday that kyiv has been pressing the ICC for some time to seek arrest warrants against Russian individuals in connection with the war in Ukraine.

In April, the office of Lvova-Belova, the Russian commissioner for children’s rights, said 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. .

As of mid-October, 800 children from the eastern Donbas area of ​​Ukraine were living in the Moscow region, many with families, according to the Moscow regional governor.

Some of the children ended up thousands of miles and several time zones away from Ukraine. According to Lvova-Belova’s office, Ukrainian children have been sent to live in institutions and with foster families in 19 different Russian regions, including Novosibirsk, Omsk and Tyumen regions in Siberia and Murmansk in the Arctic.

Responding to the ICC arrest warrant for her, Lvova-Belova said it was “great” that the international community appreciated her work for children, Russian state news agency TASS reported on Friday.

“It is very good that the international community has valued the work to help the children of our country, that we do not leave them in war zones, that we take them out, that we create good conditions for them, that we surround them with love, affectionate people” he told reporters, according to TASS.”There were sanctions against all countries, including Japan, in relation to me. Now there is an arrest warrant, I wonder what will happen next. And we keep working.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andry Yermak, said on Telegram on Friday that the arrest warrant issued against Putin is “just the beginning.”

“The world has received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and that its leaders and accomplices will be brought to justice,” Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin added in a Facebook post on Friday.

“This means that Putin must be arrested outside of Russia and put on trial. And world leaders will think twice before shaking his hand or sitting with him at the negotiating table.”

Human Rights Watch called the ICC decision a “wake-up call to others who commit or cover up abuses.”

“This is a great day for the many victims of crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since 2014. With these arrest warrants, the ICC made Putin a wanted man and took its first step towards ending the impunity that It has emboldened the perpetrators in Russia’s war against Ukraine for far too long,” Balkees Jarrah, the NGO’s deputy director for International Justice, said in a statement on Friday.

“The warrants send a clear message that giving orders to commit or tolerate serious crimes against civilians can lead to a jail cell in The Hague. The warrants are a wake-up call to others who commit abuses or cover them up to make their day in court may be coming, regardless of rank or position,” Jarrah said.

Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, is also accused of war crimes.

Court of ‘last instance’

Moscow rejected the order on Friday. Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, said the court “has no meaning” for the country, “even 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 possible (pretexts) for arrest coming from the International Court of Justice will be legally null and void. for us,” she said.

Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president and vice president of the Russian Security Council, wrote on Twitter: “International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin. No need to explain WHERE this paper should be used” along with a toilet paper. emoji

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised the ICC saying “the wheels of justice are turning” in a tweet.

“I applaud the ICC’s decision to issue arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova for the forcible transfer of Ukrainian children. International criminals will be held responsible for stealing children and other international crimes.,” Kuleba added.

Located in The Hague, the Netherlands, and created by a treaty called the Rome Statute first submitted to the United Nations, the ICC operates independently. Most of the countries on Earth, 123 of them, are parties to the treaty, but there are very large and notable exceptions, including Russia.

The ICC is intended to be a court of “last resort” and is not intended to replace a country’s justice system. The court, which has 18 judges serving nine-year terms, tries four types of crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes.

The UN found in a report on Thursday that Russia has “committed a wide range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law” in Ukraine.

The report states that the war crimes perpetrated by the Russians included “attacks on civilians and energy-related infrastructure, intentional killings, illegal confinement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, as well as the illegal transfers and deportations of children.”

Their findings also documented a small number of violations carried out by Ukrainian forces, “including probable indiscriminate attacks and two incidents classified as war crimes, where Russian prisoners of war were shot, wounded and tortured,” says the Human Rights statement of The United Nations.

Uliana Pavlova, Hira Humayun, Olga Voitovych, Ivana Kottasová, Yulia Kesaieva and CNN’s Richard Roth contributed to this report.

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