Order against Putin is ‘justified’, Biden says as UK suggests Moscow will raise conscription age

The International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin was “justified,” President Joe Biden said on Friday.

“He clearly committed war crimes,” Biden told reporters at the White House. He added that he thought the order was “justified”, although he pointed out that the US, like Russia, does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.

His comments came after the ICC order charged Putin with committing the “war crime” of overseeing the unlawful kidnapping and deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

It said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bore individual responsibility for the crimes and that he had not exercised proper control over subordinates who committed the acts.

A warrant was also issued against Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Putin’s Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights, who the ICC said had committed similar crimes.

The move sparked outrage in Russia, where Putin’s press secretary Dmitriy Peskov dismissed the findings. “We do not recognize this court, we do not recognize the jurisdiction of this court. This is how we treat this,” he said in a Telegram post.

Moscow has consistently denied allegations of war crimes, describing them as a “fantasy” aimed at discrediting Russia. The Russian embassy in the United States said last month that the country has taken in children forced to flee the fighting.

Although Moscow formally withdrew its signing of the ICC’s founding statute in 2016, the ICC’s move will require the court’s 123 member countries to arrest and transfer Putin to the court’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, if he exceeds their limits.

Volunteers carry the remains of a Uragan missile after a monastery was destroyed in a shelling in Dolyna, Ukraine.Ihor Tkachov / AFP via Getty Images file

However, most governments also adhere to an international principle of law that heads of state enjoy legal immunity from other courts.

Within Russia, the British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence briefing on Saturday that the Kremlin was ramping up military conscription to meet wartime needs and would likely change age rules and restrictions around who was eligible to serve.

Officials in Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, introduced a bill on Monday to change the conscription age range for men between the ages of 21 and 30, the daily note posted on Twitter said. Currently, the age range is 18 to 27, it said, adding that the new law would take effect in January.

“The authorities are most likely changing the age range to bolster troop numbers by ensuring that students are eventually forced to serve,” the briefing said.

Although Russia officially excludes conscripts from operations in Ukraine, “hundreds of conscripts are likely to have served through administrative mix-ups or being forced to sign contracts,” it said.

This will free up a higher proportion of professional soldiers to fight even if no conscripts are deployed to the conflict in Ukraine, the briefing said.

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