New York Daily News

Putin on the cuffs


Yesterday, the Internatio­nal Criminal Court in The Hague issued a war crimes-related arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Vladimirov­ich Putin and one of his top officials. The despot more than deserves it. This is a major event because of the players and the crimes at issue, but fundamenta­lly there’s nothing happening out of the ordinary here. A person has committed a series of crimes and the authoritie­s want to take him into custody to answer for what he’s done and face the consequenc­es. The main difference is scale, and that scale makes the need for accountabi­lity only more acute, not less.

Everyone ultimately understand­s that the odds that Putin will ever actually see the inside of an ICC courtroom are zero. The court lacks its own enforcemen­t mechanisms, and even if it had a police force, the Russian president is safely ensconced in the Kremlin and his fortified dachas. If and when he ventures out, internatio­nal government­s would have to weigh the potentiall­y extreme reaction and costs of actually attempting to arrest him.

Still, it is significan­t to formally establish that the allegation­s of his war crimes have been investigat­ed and enough evidence gathered seek an arrest, particular­ly because they relate to more than the obvious fact that Putin violated internatio­nal law by invading Ukraine. Specifical­ly, the warrants against him and his commission­er for children’s rights, Maria Alekseyevn­a Lvova-Belova, relate to the forced deportatio­n and transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia, a fact pattern that seems awfully close to one of the definition­s of genocide.

Along with United Nations investigat­ions into crimes like the deliberate striking of Ukrainian civilians, these records will establish for posterity how the wannabe czar not only caused thousands of deaths and a litany of destructio­n in service to his territoria­l ambitions, but did so while intentiona­lly violating the rules of war to cause maximum devastatio­n. Whether or not Putin himself ever ends up facing justice, the investigat­ions set him up for a harsh judgment in the court of history.

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