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ICC issues Putin arrest warrant – here’s what specifically for

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)
March 17, 2023

A warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been issued by the International Criminal Court, which accused the Russian leader of war crimes in the deportation of children from Ukraine.

The warrant, issued Friday, means that Putin could be arrested in any of the ICC’s 123 member states and tried for war crimes at The Hague, Reuters reported. The ICC does not maintain a police force of its own.

In a statement, the ICC accused Putin and another government official of illegally deporting children out of occupied Ukrainian territory amid Russia’s ongoing invasion. 

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A February report by Yale University researchers collaborating with the U.S. State Department found that since the invasion, all levels of the Russian government have been involved in “a large scale, systematic network” that has detained at least 6,000 Ukrainian children, mainly so they can undergo “re-education” programs and integrate with Russian culture.

Putin is the third head of state to ever face an ICC arrest warrant while in office, following Omar al-Bashir of Sudan in 2009, who has still not faced trial, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya in 2011, who died before he could be arrested.

Also facing an ICC warrant for her arrest is Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova. The Yale report described Lvova-Belova as the “apparent leader” of the operation. 

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She was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in September for organizing the “forced adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families,” putting Ukrainian children through “patriotic education,” and the “deliberate removal of Ukrainian children by Russia’s forces,” according to a press release.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the allegations “outrageous and unacceptable,” Reuters reported. Peskov also dodged the question of whether Putin might now fear setting foot in ICC countries, saying, “I have nothing to add on this subject. That’s all we want to say.”

Russia and Ukraine are not ICC members, but Ukraine has given the international body permission to prosecute war crimes committed in its borders, according to the ICC.

The U.S. is also not a member of the ICC.