International Criminal Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Vladimir Putin

Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday for his role in the kidnapping and deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children since Russia’s unprovoked invasion and forcibly placing them in Russian homes as adoptees. Also indicted was Russia’s commissioner of children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova.


Today, 17 March 2023, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “the Court”) issued warrants of arrest for two individuals in the context of the situation in Ukraine: Mr Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Ms Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova.

Pre-Trial Chamber II considered, based on the Prosecution’s applications of 22 February 2023, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children.


This follows a United Nations commission of inquiry that found over 16,000 Ukrainian children had been deported from Ukraine, separated from their parents or guardians, and placed in Russian homes.

In October, the New York Times did an in-depth investigative story headlined, Using Adoptions, Russia Turns Ukrainian Children Into Spoils of War.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, Russian authorities have announced with patriotic fanfare the transfer of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia to be adopted and become citizens. On state-run television, officials offer teddy bears to new arrivals, who are portrayed as abandoned children being rescued from war.

In fact, this mass transfer of children is a potential war crime, regardless of whether they were orphans. And while many of the children did come from orphanages and group homes, the authorities also took children whose relatives or guardians want them back, according to interviews with children and families on both sides of the border.


The Russians have noted that this, much like international borders and the rule of law, has no “significance” to Russia.

The material impact of this indictment will be limited, at least insofar as Putin is concerned. The ICC has no police force. It cannot compel nations to execute the arrest warrant. So, like fellow ICC-indicted war criminal and head of state, Sudan’s Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Putin will be free to travel to any place that doesn’t mind the stench.

More significant will be the political fallout. Putin’s status as an indicted war criminal will affect his ability to deal with other heads of state. Making it worse, he’s not indicted for run-of-the-mill atrocities. Instead, by charging him with kidnapping kids, he’s basically been labeled a pedophile masquerading as a head of state.

Any claim Putin could ever lay to a world leadership role is effectively finished. It is also tough to imagine anyone trying to broker a peace deal with someone indicted by the ICC. If the ICC is following the model of the UN report, we can expect more indictments to follow. I’m sure that Putin will be charged with other offenses, but I think we can anticipate some members of the Russian defense establishment and armed forces will be indicted in the near future.

United Nations Commission Report

Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine by streiff on Scribd



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