Vladimir Putin’s arrest warrant is ‘first shot’ in potentially substantial indictment against him | UK News

An arrest warrant issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin is the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) “first shot” in what could be a substantial indictment against him, Ukraine’s top lawyer has said.

The intergovernmental group – based in The Hague – accused Mr Putin to be responsible for the abduction of children in Ukraine.

An arrest warrant has also been issued for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Russia‘s Commissioner for Children, over similar war crimes allegations.

Speaking to Sky News, Ukraine’s senior government lawyer Ben Emmerson said he believed there were two reasons why the arrest warrant for Mr Putin had been issued now.

He said the immediate moment appears to have been the decision of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva “to release a report detailing what the judges consider to be Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine – including allegations of forcible transfer of children from Ukraine to Russia as a war crime”.

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What Putin’s Arrest Warrant Means

Mr Emmerson said the other dimension of the timing of the arrest warrant is that “sometimes when indictments are issued, they are sealed”.

“In other words, they are not made public. But increasingly, we have seen indictments issued against leaders during an ongoing conflict that has arisen in relation to the act of accusation against General Gaddafi, for example, during the Libyan uprising.”

Putin risks being ‘held responsible’

He said it must be recognized that the issuance of an indictment against a sitting head of state in the midst of an armed conflict “affects to some extent the conduct or is intended to affect the conduct of persons involved”.

“In other words, this is clearly the first shot in what could possibly be a much more substantial indictment against President Putin,” Mr Emmerson said.

He went on to say he believed the main purpose was to make Mr Putin and those around him aware “of the very real risk that exists of being held criminally responsible in due course”.

On whether he thinks the narrow charges were a strategic decision by the ICC, he said Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, made it clear in his role that he intended to act” not on a political basis, but on the basis of cases that can be prosecuted”.

“In other words, he would choose cases that he was confident could be won and won with evidence,” Mr Emmerson said.

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How Russia ‘stole’ Ukrainian children

Russian leaders make ‘erratic and belligerent moves’

Mr Emmerson suspects the reason this particular charge was retained in the indictment against Mr Putin is because ‘proving his responsibility in this regard and indeed the responsibility of the Children’s Commissioner is straightforward’.

Asked if the arrest warrant could offer some kind of hope for Ukrainian families to get their children back, Mr Emmerson said he was still skeptical because “one thing that seems reasonably clear is that [Russian authorities] are often very unpredictable.

“But having said that, these children were kidnapped illegally and in violation of humanitarian law. They were indeed kidnapped. This is not the first time that Russia has done this – it did it during the 2014 war in the Donbass.”

He added that “when the situation of anarchy is as it is now, and Russian troops and authorities as well as Russian leaders behave increasingly erratically and belligerently, everything remains unpredictable.” .

“Putin clearly committed war crimes”

Arrest warrant comes after US president Joe Biden describes the The ICC’s decision to issue it as “justified”.

The Kremlin said Russia, which does not recognize the ICC, found the issues raised by the court “outrageous and unacceptable”.

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But Mr Biden, speaking at a press conference on Friday, said: ‘It is [Putin] manifestly committed war crimes.

“I think it’s justified [the warrant]. But the question is – it’s not recognized internationally by us either. But I think that makes a very strong point.”

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Putin “clearly committed war crimes”

Although Russia and the United States were once signatories to the Rome Statute – the treaty that established the ICC – the United States never ratified the agreement, while Russia withdrew after criticism of the court on its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Along with the ICC arrest warrant, the United States separately concluded that Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine.

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“There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities [in] Ukraine, and we have been clear that those responsible must be held accountable,” a State Department spokesperson said.

Russia has said ICC warrants are “null and void” because it does not recognize the court.

Meanwhile, Ms Lvova-Belova said her arrest warrant validated her work “helping the children of our country”.

The allegations come as Russia prepares to celebrate the ninth anniversary of its annexation of Crimea in 2014, which Mr Putin is expected to mark with a “patriotic” rally at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium this weekend.


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