The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes carried out in Ukraine has been welcomed by the US and UK. The ICC alleges that Putin is “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 court also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Russia.
The ICC claims that the war crimes took place in Ukrainian occupied territory from February 24, 2022, the day of Russia’s invasion. The court said that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that both Putin and Lvova-Belova bear responsibility for the “unlawful deportation of population” from Ukraine to Russia.
US President Joe Biden responded to the move saying Putin had “clearly committed war crimes” and the warrant, although not recognised in the US, was “justified” and made “a very strong point”. His remarks came after UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said it was essential that those at the top of the regime in Moscow were held to account for the “atrocities” which have taken place since the invasion a year ago.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, also backed the decision. “Today’s announcement sends an important message: there will no hiding place for Putin and his cronies and the world is determined to make them pay for what they have done,” he said. “These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. One day Putin will face justice: until then, the focus of all who believe in Ukraine’s liberty and freedom must continue to be on ensuring her victory.”
The charges were immediately dismissed by the Kremlin, which does not recognise the ICC, as “legally void”. Foreign affairs analyst Tim Marshall told LBC’s Shelagh Fogarty that Putin would first need to be removed from power and find himself in another country for the ICC to have the power to try the Russian president in The Hague.
Mr Marshall said that ICC’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Putin is “for the moment, symbolic”. “I’m not being sceptical – it is unlikely he would ever be brought to court,” he said. “There would have to be regime change in Russia in the first place, or at least he would have to be no longer in power – and this is the crucial bit – be outside of Russia. Russia doesn’t recognise the authority of The Hague…Even if Putin is deposed, another leader comes to power and arrests him for YXZ…because Russia doesn’t accept the ICC, it wouldn’t then transfer him to The Hague”.
The arrest warrant comes amid rising tensions between Russia and Western nations after a Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea. American officials were forced to bring down the unmanned aerial vehicle in international waters, the US military said on Tuesday. The US military released a 42-second video released on Thursday showing a Russian Su-27 approaching the back of the MQ-9 drone and beginning to release fuel as it passes, the Pentagon said.
The White House said the downing of an American drone was “unsafe and unprofessional”, but Moscow immediately denied involvement. In a statement after the crash, the Russian Defense Ministry denied colliding with the American drone, suggesting the US aircraft went into “uncontrolled flight” due to “sharp manoeuvring”. Russian fighter pilots involved in the incident will be given state awards, the defence ministry has since announced. The move appears to signal Moscow’s intention to adopt a more aggressive stance toward future US surveillance flights.