The International Criminal Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The court, based in The Hague (in the Netherlands), is the main international tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and has accused Putin of being directly responsible for the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.
According to the Court, the deportation would have started as early as February 24, 2022, the day Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. In addition to Putin, an arrest warrant has also been issued for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Russian presidential commissioner for children’s rights.
The International Criminal Court did not provide any other details on the allegations, but the issue of the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia has been the focus of several independent investigations in recent months, in addition to the one conducted by the court itself. Various journalistic investigations have talked about it, as well as reports by centers research and foreign governments. One of the most recent and in-depth investigations was published on February 14 by the American University of Yale, in collaboration with the US State Department.
The report, still preliminary, is entitled “Russia’s systematic program for re-education and adoption of Ukrainian minors” and claims that since the beginning of the war, Russian soldiers have transferred more than 6,000 Ukrainian children and young people, aged between 4 months and 17 years, to 43 structures that the university defines as “re-education” and which are located in various Russian territories (from the Crimea to Siberia). The deported children lived in parts of eastern and southern Ukraine that had been occupied by Russian forces at the start of the invasion.
Some of them, according to the report, were orphans, while others were allegedly relocated with their parents’ consent. The parents were allegedly told that the facilities were recreational camps and that the move would be temporary. They were promised that the transfer to the camps would allow the children to stay safe, away from war zones, and to receive food, medical care and education, which they would not have been able to get in the occupied cities. According to the report, in most cases those children never returned to their families, and many of them were later adopted by Russian families.
The report also says that in 32 of the camps a “systematic re-education program” of Ukrainian children and young people would have been created, who would have undergone political indoctrination into the cause of Russian propaganda. In some cases they would also have received military training.
The results of the Yale report are preliminary, but confirm the claims of various research and surveys published in recent months. Similar accounts had been exposed in two investigations of New York Times e you Associated Pressand in November Amnesty International had published a report in which he had told of a similar situation specifically concerning the civilians of Mariupol, the port city in southeastern Ukraine besieged for three months by the Russian army until its final surrender in May.
The city had been bombarded incessantly and the inhabitants had been left without water, heat and electricity for a long time. At the end of March, the Russians had allowed the evacuation of civilians to areas controlled by the Russian government: many of these, according to Amnesty, would have suffered arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and torture, and orphaned minors would have been given up for adoption to Russian families.
Despite the seriousness of the charges and the arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, in practice Putin is not in danger of being arrested. The International Criminal Court does not have its own police, and for arrests it must rely on those of the individual states. Moreover, Russia – like China and the United States – has never ratified it Statute of Romethe treaty that established the International Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction it therefore does not accept, therefore it has no legal obligation to cooperate with the Court or hand over suspects to it in the event that they are arrested.
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