CNN exclusive: ICC chief prosecutor says it's possible Putin could be tried for alleged crimes at some point
From CNN's Clarissa Ward
It is not outside the realm of possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be tried by the International Criminal Court at some point, the ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said Friday.
"Nobody should feel they have a free pass," he said.
The ICC on Friday issued arrest warrants for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova relating to an alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.
"I think the message must be that basic principles of humanity bind everybody. And nobody should feel they have a free pass. Nobody should feel they can act with abandon, and that definitely, nobody should feel that they can act and commit genocide or crimes against humanity or war crimes with impunity," Khan said.
Watch the interview with Karim Khan:
Analysis: Here's how war crimes prosecutions work
From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf
After more than a year of international outrage at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and shocking atrocities, there’s an arrest warrant out for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The International Criminal Court on Friday announced charges against Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova relating to an alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.
Here’s a very broad look at how war crime prosecutions work:
What is a war crime? The ICC has specific definitions for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. Specifically, targeting civilian populations, violating the Geneva Conventions, targeting specific groups of people and more could be potential Russian war crimes.
Who can be tried by the ICC? Anyone accused of a crime in the jurisdiction of the court, which includes countries that are members of the ICC, can be tried. The court tries people, not countries, and focuses on those who hold the most responsibility: leaders and officials. While Ukraine is not a member of the court, it has previously accepted its jurisdiction. Putin is therefore eligible for being indicted by the court for ordering war crimes in Ukraine.
However, the ICC does not conduct trials in absentia, so he would either have to be handed over by Russia or arrested outside of Russia. That seems unlikely as long as Putin is in power.
How does the ICC bring proceedings? Court proceedings can be brought in one of two ways: Either a national government or the UN Security Council can refer cases for investigation. Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has veto power over council actions. It was requests by 39 national governments, most of them European, that sparked the current investigation.
How long do these investigations take? If justice in general moves slowly, international justice barely moves at all. Investigations at the ICC take many years. Only a handful of convictions have ever been won.
Why would a Ukraine prosecution be different? The international outcry against Russia is unique, and that could give the court the ability to operate differently, according to Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University and co-editor-in-chief of Just Security, an online forum. “It’s hard to judge the ICC’s investigation based on past practice,” Goodman said in an email after the court initially launched its investigation back in 2022. “In the Ukraine situation, the prosecutor is buttressed by an extraordinary outpouring of support from dozens of countries, which I expect will be followed by an infusion of resources.”
ICC president says Putin arrest warrant sends "important signal" to the world
The arrest warrant issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin is a "very important signal" for the world and the victims of the alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, the president of the International Criminal Court said Friday.
A warrant was also issued for Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova.
Hofmanski compared the arrest warrant for Putin to a kind of sanction for the Russian leader.
"There are 123 states — two-thirds of states of the world — in which he will not be safe," he said.
Asked whether the ICC is asking signatory countries to arrest Putin if he travels to them, Hofmanski referred to ICC statute, saying, “All state parties have the legal obligation to cooperate fully with the court, which means that they’re obliged to execute arrest warrants issued by the court."
He also said that these warrants are not "the end of the game," adding that the case "can expand and also cover other atrocities allegedly committed on the territory of Ukraine." Hofmanski said he has no knowledge of any other actions coming down the pike.
Hofmanski said the contents of the arrest warrants were secret but that the ICC had agreed to publish the information about the existence of the warrants and the crimes allegedly committed by Putin and Lvova-Belova.
Remember: The ICC does not conduct trials in absentia, so Putin would either have to be handed over by Russia or arrested outside of Russia.
CNN's Jorge Engels contributed to this post.
Zelensky praises the ICC decision to issue arrest warrants for Putin and his children's rights commissioner
From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio and Olga Voitovych
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the decision Friday by the International Criminal Court to issue warrants for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova.
The Ukrainian president said his own country’s investigations also suggested the Kremlin had direct involvement in the forced deportation of children into Russia.
Zelensky went on to thank the ICC and Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan. He called the forced deportation of children “evil.”
So far, Ukrainian officials have been able to return 300 children who had been forcibly deported to Russia.
Putin bears criminal responsibility for forced deportations, ICC chief prosecutor says
From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin and Vasco Cotovio
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan said there are reasonable grounds to believe Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova bear criminal responsibility for the forced deportation of hundreds of Ukrainian children.
At the time the Ukrainian children were reportedly taken out of their country, they were protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Khan said in a statement Friday.
According to the US and several European governments, Putin's administration has carried out a scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, often to a network of dozens of camps, where the minors undergo political reeducation.
“Many of these children, we allege, have since been given for adoption in the Russian Federation,” Khan also said, adding a change of the law in Russia through Presidential decrees issued by Putin had made it easier for the children to be adopted by Russian families.
“These acts, amongst others, demonstrate an intention to permanently remove these children from their own country,” Khan said.
He called for accountability and for the children to be returned to their families in Ukraine, adding in the statement that "we cannot allow children to be treated as if they are the spoils of war.”
Khan said Ukraine was “a crime scene that encompasses a complex and broad range of alleged international crimes,” explaining that while this was a first step in prosecuting war crimes, he continues to pursue other lines of investigation.
"I hope it is followed by actions": Ukrainians in Kyiv react to ICC arrest warrant for Putin
From CNN's Gul Tuysuz, Svitlana Vlasova and Dima Olenchenko
CNN asked people on the streets of Kyiv their reactions to the International Criminal Court issuing arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
Here's what they said:
Tatiana Kostiuchenko, 25, massage therapist: "I think Russians will kill Putin before there is a chance for him to stand trial. He knows too much. This is the way they do stuff. The arrest warrant actually gives me a sense of calm. Because it’s like Ukrainians were alone saying all of these terrible things are happening, that Putin is a criminal. But now everyone will say it, know it. The fact that this is because of the children deportation is even better. It highlights the suffering of civilians, especially children. People think war is about two armies but it’s not — civilians are suffering, so many children."
Dmitro Yukhnoskyi, 29, games level designer: "I don’t know how much power they have to carry it out, but I am glad to see it. It won’t solve the problem, but it is a good start."
Mykola Strizhak, 22, courier: "I am happy to see this news, but for now it is just words. But I hope it is followed by actions."
Natalia Saloviova, 68, teacher: "I am happy to hear it, but I am not sure that it will be implemented because he will hide. He will hide. He will go abroad with the help of China maybe or Iran ... But I hope, I hope. I want to believe in this."
To note: It remains unlikely that a trial at The Hague will go ahead. Russia is not a member of the ICC and the court does not conduct trials in absentia, so any Russian officials charged would either have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside of Russia.
EU diplomat calls ICC arrest warrant for Putin an "important decision of international justice"
From CNN's Jorge Engels
The European Union’s foreign policy chief is hailing the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin as “an important decision of international justice” and “just the start” in an international legal process to hold Putin accountable.
“The gravity of the crimes and the statement of the ICC speak for themselves,” Josep Borrell, high representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said Friday.
He said this arrest warrant is "just the start of the process of accountability" for holding Russia and other officials responsible for potential war crimes in Ukraine.
Here's what we know about the International Criminal Court and why it's issuing an arrest warrant for Putin
From CNN's Rob Picheta and Zachary B. Wolf
The International Criminal Court, which operates independently, is located in The Hague, Netherlands, and was created by a treaty called the Rome Statute first brought before the United Nations.
Most countries on Earth – 123 of them – are parties to the treaty, but there are some notable exceptions, including Russia, as well as the US, Ukraine and China.
The ICC is meant to be a court of “last resort” and is not supposed to replace a country’s justice system. The court, which has 18 judges serving nine-year terms, tries four types of crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes.
Putin arrest warrant: The ICC on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
The court said there “are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the alleged crimes, for having committed them directly alongside others, and for “his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.”
Reports of Ukrainian children in Russia: The Ukrainian government says many missing children have been forcibly taken to Russia. The Russian government doesn’t deny taking Ukrainian children and has made their adoption by Russian families a centerpiece of propaganda.
Some of the children have ended up thousands of miles and several time zones away from Ukraine. According to Lvova-Belova's office, Ukrainian kids have been sent to live in institutions and with foster families in 19 different Russian regions, including Novosibirsk, Omsk and Tyumen regions in Siberia and Murmansk in the Arctic.
In April 2022, the office of Lvova-Belova said that around 600 children from Ukraine had been placed in orphanages in Kursk and Nizhny Novgorod before being sent to live with families in the Moscow region. As of mid-October, 800 children from Ukraine’s eastern Donbas area were living in the Moscow region, many with families, according to the Moscow regional governor.
UN report on alleged war crimes: The UN on Thursday said in a report that war crimes perpetrated by Russia included “attacks on civilians and energy-related infrastructure, wilful killings, unlawful confinement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, as well as unlawful transfers and deportations of children.”
So, will Putin actually be arrested?: Probably not.
Anyone accused of a crime in the jurisdiction of the court, which includes countries that are members of the ICC, can be tried. The court tries people, not countries, and focuses on those who hold the most responsibility: leaders and officials. While Ukraine is not a member of the court, it has previously accepted its jurisdiction.
The ICC does not conduct trials in absentia, so Putin would either have to be handed over by Russia or arrested outside of Russia. That seems unlikely.
CNN's editorial research department contributed to this post.
Hungary will vote to approve Finland's NATO membership, ruling party leader says
From CNN’s Allegra Goodwin
Hungary’s ruling party plans to approve Finland’s accession to NATO in a vote later this month, it said in a statement Friday.
The parliamentary vote will take place March 27, and the group will vote unanimously in support of Finland's bid, the leader of the ruling Fidesz Party, Máté Kocsis, said in a statement.
Kocsis said the group would decide later on Sweden’s case for joining the military alliance.
Turkey, which announced earlier Friday that it would approve Finland's membership, and Hungary have been the holdouts blocking both Nordic nations' accession.
Western officials had generally considered getting Turkey's blessing the most significant hurdle to NATO expansion.
More background: Finland announced its intention to join NATO in May, along with Sweden, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused a sudden shift in attitudes toward joining the bloc.
That announcement was welcomed by almost all of NATO’s leaders, but under NATO rules just one member state can veto a new applicant’s membership.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put a spoke in the wheel when he said he was not looking at both countries joining NATO “positively,” accusing them of housing Kurdish “terrorist organizations."
Friday’s announcement clears the way for Finland’s accession, but Sweden’s application has been stalled by Ankara’s accusations, which Sweden denies.
CNN's Yusuf Gezer, Amy Cassidy and Jack Guy contributed to this report.