Putin ARREST warrant issued by International Criminal Court for snatching Ukrainian children in historic move

AN arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin has been issued over his alleged involvement in the abductions of children from Ukraine.

The International Criminal Court has accused the Russian tyrant of the “unlawful deportation” of children from Ukraine – a war crime under the Geneva Convention.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Russian president Vladimir Putin


An arrest warrant has been issued for Russian president Vladimir PutinCredit: AFP
Russia has tried to cast the deportations as saving orphans or bringing children for medical care


Russia has tried to cast the deportations as saving orphans or bringing children for medical care
A war crimes prosecutor examines a destroyed building in Sergiyvka, near Odessa


A war crimes prosecutor examines a destroyed building in Sergiyvka, near OdessaCredit: AFP

An investigation by The Sun into Ukraine’s missing children back in September revealed that thousands of children have been deported during Putin’s invasion.

Ukraine’s human rights chief, Dmytro Lubinets, has said 16,226 children were deported and the country has managed to bring back just 308 of them.

The Hague-based court has now said “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the crimes.

Ukraine hailed the arrest warrant as an “historic decision”.

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Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations of atrocities during its disastrous one-year invasion of Ukraine.

And Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blasted the arrest warrant as meaningless.

“The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” she said.

“Possible ‘recipes’ for arrest coming from the international court will be legally void as far as we are concerned.”

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The court also issued a warrant for the arrest for Maria Lvova-Belova – Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights – on similar allegations to Putin.

It said “there are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation” of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.

The court added “it is in the interests of justice… to publicly disclose the existence of the warrants”.

Under the 1948 Geneva convention, forcibly transferring children and changing that child’s nationality or civil status is considered a war crime.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the move and said: “Wheels of justice are turning… international criminals will be held accountable for stealing children and other international crimes.”

Andriy Kostin, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, added: “This is a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire international law system.

“Today’s decision is a historic step. But it is only the beginning of the long road to restore justice.”

Thousands of children have been abducted or taken to Russian-controlled areas – with only a few of them reuniting with their families in Ukraine.

A study by Yale University revealed at least 6,000 children from Ukraine have been taken to re-education camps across Russia – including in Crimea and Siberia – for “pro-Russia patriotic and military-related education”.

The report notes the number is “likely significantly higher”.

Nathaniel Raymond, a Yale researcher, said Russia was in “clear violation” of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the treatment of civilians during war.

Regime leaders and key figures hauled before international courts

Vladimir Putin is not the first dictator to be accused of war crimes by international courts.

  • Slobodan Milosevic – former president of Serbia

The International Criminal Tribunal for Yogoslavia charged Milošević with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

He was the first sitting head of state to be charged with war crimes but died in custody before he was tried.

  • Ratko Mladic – former Serbian army commander

Mladic – dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia” – was found guilty of genocide and jailed for life by the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia in 2017.

He was blamed for the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II during the country’s 1990s conflict.

He faced 11 charges including genocide and crimes against humanity.

The UN court found him guilty on 10 counts including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, acquitting him of genocide in the municipalities.

  • Charles Taylor – former president of Liberia

Taylor was accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity as a result of his involvement in the Sierra Leone Civil War from 1991 – 2002.

On April 26, 2012, Taylor was found guilty on all 11 counts of bearing responsibility for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by rebel forces during the war.

He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Russia has tried to cast the relocation effort as saving orphans or bringing children for medical care but parents say their children were abducted or they were pressured to give consent to send them away.

The study claimed Putin’s aides have been closely involved in the operation – including Lvova-Belova.

She was previously accused of “barbaric treatment of children”.

Over a year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is feared thousands of Ukrainian children were taken from occupied regions and given for adoption to Russian families.

The ICC move came a day after a UN-mandated investigative body accused Russia of committing wide-ranging war crimes in Ukraine – including torture and making children watch loved ones being raped.

News of the arrest warrant also came ahead of a planned visit to Moscow next week by Chinese President Xi Jinping – which is likely to cement much closer ties between the two nations.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan opened an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine a year ago.

During four trips to Ukraine, he said he was looking at alleged crimes against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure.

Wayne Jordash, a Kyiv-based international human rights lawyer, said the warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova were likely to be the first of many.

“More will come over the next few months,” Jordash said.

“This has got to be a sort of warning shot across the bow. This is the prosecutor just getting something in the docket.”

Russia signed the Rome Statute in 2000 – but never ratified it to become a member of the International Criminal Court.

It finally withdrew its signature in 2016.

At the time, Russia was under international pressure over its seizure and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and its campaign of air strikes in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s war.

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Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev compared Putin’s arrest warrant to toilet paper.

“No need to explain WHERE this paper should be used,” he said, alongside a toilet paper emoji.

International Criminal Court convictions

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has convicted four individuals of war crimes so far. They are:

  • Thomas Lubanga Dyilo – Democratic Republic of the Congo

Lubanga was convicted in 2012 of enlisting and conscripting child soldiers under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

  • Germain Katanga – Democratic Republic of the Congo

Katanga was convicted in 2014 of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in an attack on a village in the Ituri region of the DRC in 2003 that left over 200 people dead.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

  • Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi – Mali

Al Mahdi was convicted in 2016 of war crimes for his role in the destruction of cultural heritage sites in Timbuktu, Mali, during the armed conflict in the country in 2012 and 2013.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

  • Bosco Ntaganda – Democratic Republic of the Congo

Ntaganda was convicted in 2019 of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role as a military commander in the eastern DRC from 2002 to 2003.

He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

It’s worth noting that the ICC has opened investigations into other cases of war crimes and is currently conducting ongoing trials for several other individuals.

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