Putin arrest warrant: Biden welcomes ICC war crimes charges

  • By Kathryn Armstrong, Antoinette Radford and Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent
  • BBC news

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Vladimir Putin can now be arrested if he sets foot in any of the ICC’s more than 120 member states

US President Joe Biden welcomes the issuing of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court against his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

The ICC accused President Putin of committing war crimes in Ukraine — something President Biden said the Russian leader had “obviously” done.

The claims focus on the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia since the 2022 invasion of Moscow.

Moscow has denied the allegations and called the arrest warrants “outrageous”.

It is very unlikely that much will come of it, as the ICC has no authority to arrest suspects without the cooperation of a country’s government.

Russia is not a member of the ICC, which means that the court in The Hague has no jurisdiction there.

However, it may affect Putin in other ways, such as his inability to travel internationally. He can now be arrested if he sets foot in any of the court’s 123 member states.

Putin is only the third president to have an ICC arrest warrant issued.

President Biden said that while the court also had no say in the US, the issuance of the order “is a very strong point.”

“He has clearly committed war crimes,” he told reporters.

In a statement on Friday, the ICC said it had reasonable grounds to believe that Putin committed the crimes directly and also collaborated with others. It also accused him of not using his presidential powers to prevent children from being deported.

Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova is also wanted by the ICC for the same crimes.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said the arrest warrants were “based on forensic evidence, close investigation and what has been said by those two individuals”.

The court had initially considered keeping the arrest warrants secret, but decided to make them public to try to stop further crimes.

“Children cannot be treated as spoils of war, they cannot be deported,” Khan told the BBC.

“You don’t have to be a lawyer for this kind of crime, you have to be human to know how outrageous it is.”

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WATCH: Can Vladimir Putin actually be arrested?

Khan also pointed out that no one thought Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader who stood trial for war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, would end up in The Hague to face trial.

“Those who think you can commit a crime during the day and sleep well at night may need to look at history,” Khan said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said all the court’s decisions were “null and void” and former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev compared the order to toilet paper.

Russian opposition activists have welcomed the announcement. Ivan Zhdanov, a close ally of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, has tweeted that it was “a symbolic step” but an important one.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed his gratitude to Mr Khan and the ICC for their decision to press charges against “the evils of the state”.

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