San Francisco Chronicle

War crimes warrant is issued for Putin

- By Anushka Patil and Marlise Simons

The Internatio­nal Criminal Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin of Russia for war crimes, saying that he bore individual criminal responsibi­lity for the abduction and deportatio­n of Ukrainian children since Russia’s invasion last year.

Human rights groups hailed the warrant as an important step toward ending impunity for Russian war crimes in Ukraine. The likelihood of a trial while Putin remains in power appears slim, because the court cannot try defendants in absentia and Russia has said it will not surrender its own officials.

Still, the warrant deepens Putin’s isolation in the West and could limit his movements overseas.

The court also issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commission­er for children’s rights. She has been the public face of a Kremlin-sponsored program in which Ukrainian children and teenagers have been taken to Russia.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry quickly dismissed the warrants.

The court said in a statement “that there are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibi­lity for the war crime of unlawful deportatio­n of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”

The ICC does not recognize immunity for heads of state in cases involving war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

The Kremlin has denied accusation­s of war crimes but has not been secretive about the transfers of Ukrainian children to Russia, depicting them as adoptions of abandoned children and promoting the program as a patriotic and humanitari­an effort.

“This is a big day for the many victims of crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since 2014,” said Balkees Jarrah, the associate director for internatio­nal justice at Human Rights Watch. “With these arrest warrants, the ICC has made Putin a wanted man and taken its first step to end the impunity that has emboldened perpetrato­rs in Russia’s war against Ukraine for far too long.”

Maria Zakharova, a spokespers­on for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said the announceme­nt had “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,” she said. “Russia is not cooperatin­g with this body.”

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