Putin arrest warrant issued over war crime allegations

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The court alleges he is responsible for war crimes, and has focused its claims on the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

It says the crimes were committed in Ukraine from 24 February 2022 – when Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

Moscow has denied the allegations and labelled the warrants as “outrageous”.

In a statement, the ICC said it had reasonable grounds to believe Mr Putin committed the criminal acts directly, as well as working with others.

The court also said he failed to use his presidential powers to stop the deportation of children.

Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, is also wanted by the ICC for the same crimes.

In the past, she has spoken openly of efforts to indoctrinate Ukrainian children taken to Russia.

Last September, Ms Lvova-Belova complained that some children removed from the city of Mariupol “spoke badly about the [Russian President], said awful things and sang the Ukrainian anthem.”

She has also claimed to have adopted a 15-year-old boy from Mariupol.

In response to the warrants, the Kremlin said it did not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC. Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said any of the court’s decisions were “null and void” with respect to Russia.

The ICC said it initially considered keeping the arrest warrants secret, but decided to make them public in case it stopped further crimes from being committed.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev went as far as comparing the warrant to toilet paper.

“No need to explain WHERE this paper should be used,” he said on Twitter, with a toilet paper emoji.

Russian opposition leaders welcomed the announcement, with jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s close ally Ivan Zhdanov tweeting “wow!”.

“An arrest warrant for Putin! Yes, a symbolic step. But how important it is!” he wrote.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said the decision was “historic for Ukraine and the entire international law system”, while Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak lauded the decision as “only the beginning”.

The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said the ICC was right to issue the warrant and said Mr Putin should be “put to trial for the crime of aggression”.

Jonathan Leader Maynard, a lecturer in international politics at King’s College London said the warrants are unlikely to bother Putin too much, as the ICC “relies on cooperation from governments to actually arrest people, and the Russian government is obviously not going to cooperate in this respect”.

But he said it could impact Mr Putin’s freedom to travel around the world as other ICC signatory nations could assist with his arrest.

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