ICC issues arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes

Arrest warrants issued for Russian president and children’s rights commissioner for ‘unlawful deportation’ of Ukrainian children

The international criminal court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin over his alleged role in the war crime of deporting children from Ukraine.

The ICC also issued a warrant on the same grounds for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, who claims Russia has taken Ukrainian children from their homeland for their own safety. Ukraine says some 16,000 minors have been transferred to Russia since it launched an all-out invasion of its neighbour last year.

The court in The Hague said Mr Putin and Ms Lvova-Belova were “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 ICC issued the warrant for Putin's arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine. (Reuters)

Officials in Ukraine, where Russia’s onslaught has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, hailed the ICC’s move as a historic moment for international justice, while former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev likened the arrest warrants to toilet paper.


Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted that her country was not a party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, and claimed that any warrants it may issue would therefore “be legally null and void for us”.

On Twitter, Mr Medvedev said of the warrant that there was “no need to explain where this paper should be used” and ended his post with an emoji of a roll of toilet paper.

Experts have said Russia’s position on the ICC is not relevant in a legal sense because the court does have jurisdiction in Ukraine, where the alleged crimes took place. The ICC has 123 member states and relies on national authorities to detain suspects.

“It is forbidden according to international law for occupying powers to transfer civilians from the territory they live in, to other territories, and children are under special protection,” said ICC president Judge Piotr Hofmanski.

“The contents of the warrants are secret in order to protect victims… Nevertheless, the judges of the chamber dealing with this case decided to make the existence of the warrants public in the interests of justice, and to prevent the commission of future crimes.”

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said: “Wheels of Justice are turning… International criminals will be held accountable for stealing children and other international crimes.”

Earlier on Friday, the Kremlin said its military would destroy any warplanes that Ukraine received from its allies, after Slovakia joined fellow Nato member Poland in pledging to transfer Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Kyiv’s air force.

“Military aid is key to ensure Ukraine can defend itself and the entire Europe against Russia,” Slovak prime minster Eduard Heger said, when revealing that his government would send 13 MiG-29s to Kyiv.

Poland announced on Thursday that it would deliver four MiG-29s to Ukraine in the coming days and others once they had been repaired, becoming the first Nato member to make such a commitment to Ukraine.

“Naturally, during the course of the special military operation all this equipment will be subject to destruction,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Tension between Russia and the West surged on Tuesday when a US surveillance drone crashed into the Black Sea near Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Washington said “reckless” flying by two Russian Su-27 warplanes caused one of them to hit the drone in international airspace and send it plunging into the sea. Moscow said there was no contact between the aircraft.

Russia said on Friday that defence minister Sergei Shoigu “issued an order to bestow state awards on the pilots of the Su-27 planes, who did not allow the US MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle to violate airspace that is restricted during the special military operation”.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe