The International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for Putin The ICC has issued warrants for the Russian president and his children's rights commissioner for alleged war crimes involving accusations that Russia has forcibly taken Ukrainian children.

The International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is a wanted man at the International Criminal Court. The Hague-based tribunal issued an arrest warrant against the Kremlin leader and one of his advisers, who is allegedly responsible for the deportation of Ukrainian children. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The ICC's president, Piotr Hofmanski, broke the news in a video statement, explaining that the crimes being investigated involve the deportation of Ukrainian children from lands occupied by Russia.


PIOTR HOFMANSKI: It is forbidden by international law for occupying powers to transfer civilians from the territory they live in to other territories. Children enjoy special protection under the Geneva Convention.

KELEMEN: In addition to Putin, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for his commissioner for children's rights, Maria Lvova-Belova. Russia was quick to dismiss the court's move.


MARIA ZAKHAROVA: (Speaking Russian).

KELEMEN: Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova points out that Russia is not a party to the court, so she says the arrest warrants don't have any legal meaning for Russia. Ukraine is not a member either, but granted the ICC jurisdiction after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country last year. Ukraine's foreign minister hailed the arrest warrant, saying, quote, "the wheels of justice are turning."

It made sense to start on this issue of children, says Nathaniel Raymond. He's a Yale University researcher who recently came out with a report in collaboration with the State Department detailing Russia's program to deport and reeducate thousands of Ukrainian children.

NATHANIEL RAYMOND: These facilities stretch all the way from the Black Sea to the Pacific - well over 3,500 miles, including Siberia, in Magadan, which is closer to Alaska than it is to Moscow.

KELEMEN: Raymond says the evidence that the ICC has is, in his words, about as airtight as you can get.

RAYMOND: They have the statements of the officials involved, showing clear command and control and intent in a program that is systematic in scale and in operation.

KELEMEN: But don't expect to see Putin facing a trial anytime soon, cautions David Bosco, author of a book about the ICC called "Rough Justice." He says the Russian leader will be safe at home, but it could be tricky for him to visit countries that are a part of the court.

DAVID BOSCO: In some ways, the most interesting question might be how this impacts world public opinion and whether it has an impact in terms of the way countries, particularly outside of the West, view Putin and view Russia's leadership.

KELEMEN: Bosco says this case raises some uncomfortable questions for the U.S. too.

BOSCO: This is going to be another awkward moment for the United States because of the U.S. position that the ICC should not be able to prosecute non-member state citizens.

KELEMEN: Because it doesn't want to see Americans hauled before the court over U.S. military actions abroad. Raymond, the Yale researcher, says all nations need to work together on the case against Putin.

RAYMOND: I have been a war crimes investigator for 24 years, and I've learned one major lesson, which is never underestimate who you think is going to get arrested. And so for me - doing this work, you have to always believe that justice, including arrest and trial and conviction, is possible. And I believe that here.

KELEMEN: He's less convinced about the deterrent effect of this announcement. Soon after Raymond released his report on the deportations, President Putin met with his commissioner on children's rights, and they talked about how she adopted a teenage boy from Ukraine, all thanks to the Russian president.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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