The International Criminal Court on Friday issued international arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova for allegedly abducting Ukrainian children and transporting them to Russia.
The Hague-based ICC said that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that Putin and Lvova-Belova bear "individual criminal responsibility" for "the war crime of unlawful deportation" of Ukrainian children "from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation."
ICC President Judge Piotr Hofmański said in a video statement announcing the warrant that "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."
Ukrainian officials accuse Russian forces of taking around 14,000 children from Ukraine to Russia since Putin launched the invasion in February 2022.
"They change their citizenship, give them up for adoption under guardianship, commit sexual violence and other crimes," Daria Herasymchuk, the commissioner for children's rights and rehabilitation for Ukraine, toldEuronews.
According to an Associated Pressinvestigation published last month:
Russian law prohibits the adoption of foreign children without consent of the home country, which Ukraine has not given. But in May, Putin signed a decree making it easier for Russia to adopt and give citizenship to Ukrainian children without parental care—and harder for Ukraine and surviving relatives to win them back.
Russia also has prepared a register of suitable Russian families for Ukrainian children, and pays them for each child who gets citizenship—up to $1,000 for those with disabilities. It holds summer camps for Ukrainian orphans, offers "patriotic education" classes, and even runs a hotline to pair Russian families with children from Donbas.
Lvova-Belova has defended the deportations as "saving" lost or orphaned children.
The ICC warrants came one day after the United Nations' Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine published a report detailing Russian war crimes against Ukrainians including "willful killings, attacks on civilians, unlawful confinement, torture, rape, and forced transfers and deportations of children."