ICC issues arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin over war crimes in Ukraine


The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on Friday for Russian President Vladimir Putin, with accusations directed at his responsibility for war crimes committed in Ukraine.

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In this first warrant of its kind for Ukraine, the ICC called for Putin's arrest on allegations of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.

Earlier this week it had been reported that the court was expected to issue warrants.

Separately, the court issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's Commissioner for Children's Rights, on these same charges.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan opened an investigation into the possibility of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and also genocide in Ukraine a year ago. Over his four trips to Ukraine, he highlighted that he was looking at alleged crimes against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure.

Ukrainians applaud ICC decision

Senior Ukrainian officials applauded the ICC decision, and the country's Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin hailed it as “historic for Ukraine and the entire international law system”.

Andriy Yermak, chief of the presidential staff, says that issuing the warrant was “only the beginning”.

The ICC move comes a day after a U.N.-mandated investigative body accused Russia of committing multifarious war crimes in Ukraine, including wilful killings and torture - in some cases making children - watch loved ones being raped and detaining others alongside dead bodies.

The news also came ahead of a planned state visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping next week which is likely to cement much closer ties between Russia and China, just when relations between Moscow and the West are hitting new lows.

Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during its one-year invasion on its neighbor.

In a first reaction to this news, from Moscow, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel: “The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view. Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it.”

Putin’s violent decades

Vladimir Putin was appointed acting Prime Minister in 1999 by then-President Boris Yeltsin. He was elected to a four-year term as president in 2000 with his first inauguration having place on May 7, 2000.

He has been in office as either President or Prime Minister ever since, a period spanning two decades. His present term is marked with violence both on domestic and international scenes.

In 2002 Chechen separatists seized the Nord-Ost theater in Moscow and held more than 700 hostages, demanding withdrawal of Russian forces from their homeland. Following the Russian special forces’ operation 130 people had died, mostly from the effects of gas Russian commandos had pumped into the theater.

In 2004 Islamist fighters seized more than 1,000 people in a school in Beslan, southern Russia, triggering a three-day siege that ended in gunfire. A total of 334 hostages were killed, over half of them children.

The Beslan drama prompted President Vladimir Putin to launch a series of controversial political reforms citing the need to face what he had described as „a war declared by terrorists on Russia”. It also allowed him to boost his political control over the country.

In 2008 Russia fought a short war against Georgia with Tbilisi losing two breakaway regions garrisoned with Russian troops.

In 2014 Russians started annexing Ukraine’s Crimea region after Ukrainian protesters ousted the country’s Russia-friendly president Viktor Yanukovich. Russia incorporated Crimea the following month after a referendum condemned by the West.

Later the same year a pro-Russian separatist uprising broke out in eastern Ukraine. It resulted in a conflict, still ongoing, which left over 13,000 people dead. Western countries accused Russia of backing the uprising with Moscow denying direct involvement.

The same year, in July a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine killing 298 people. After years of collecting evidence, a Dutch-led international Joint Investigation Team concluded in 2019 that the missile launcher used to hit the civilian airplane came from a Russian army base just across the border.

In 2015 Putin ordered air strikes in Syria making for Russia’s biggest Middle East intervention in decades, turning the tide of that conflict in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor.

And in February 2022 Putin authorized a special military operation in Ukraine's Donbas region telling the Ukrainian military to lay down their weapons. In a special televised address on Russian state TV, Putin said Russia had been left with no choice but to defend itself against what he said were threats emanating from modern Ukraine.