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EDITORIAL | All of the War Crimes Charges Against Vladimir Putin Must Be Thoroughly Investigated

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan commented on war crimes in which at least several hundred children were taken from Ukraine and forcibly made Russian citizens.



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The exterior of the International Criminal Court is pictured in The Hague, Netherlands. On Friday, March 17, 2023 the ICJ said it has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes because of his alleged involvement in abductions of children from Ukraine. (© AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

On March 17 the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin. Russia's president is accused of having committed war crimes in connection with his illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The ICC alleges that Putin bears responsibility in connection with his involvement in the forced relocation of large numbers of children from Ukraine to Russia since the start of the invasion. 

It will likely prove extremely difficult to arrest and prosecute Putin. Nevertheless, the arrest warrant is without a doubt an important first step in bringing those responsible for war crimes in Ukraine to justice. The international community should fully cooperate with the ICC investigation. 

Moreover, it should show solidarity in adopting a stance of never tolerating war crimes.

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In this photo taken from video released by Russian TV Pool on Sunday, March 19, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with local residents during his visit to Mariupol in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region of Ukraine. (© Pool Photo via AP)

Calling for Return of the Deported Children

The ICC has in the past issued arrest warrants for current heads of state. But it has never before issued one for the leader of a nation that is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. That position stands at the heart of the international organization. 

The five permanent members of the Security Council have heavy responsibilities. Moreover, they exert a great deal of authority within the UN. It is extremely significant that the head of one of those nations should now be named as a person suspected of such heinous crimes.

The issuance of the arrest warrant will have substantial effect in discrediting Russia as a nation and Putin's own prestige. It should also diminish Putin's say in the international community and further isolate him.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the ICC's action as a "historic decision." Zelensky added, "The head of the terrorist state and another Russian official have officially become suspects in a war crime."


A Kremlin spokesperson attacked the ICC's action as "outrageous and unacceptable." Rather, it is Russia that continues to commit shameful acts.

Lashing out at the ICC is not what Russia needs to do. Instead, it should immediately halt its invasion and return the forcibly deported children to their motherland. 

Oleksandra Matviichuk CCL war crimes
International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan stands next to a grave where remains of three bodies were found, in the town of Bucha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine April 13, 2022. REUTERS/Volodymyr Petrov

Preventing New War Crimes

According to British media, the ICC had initially considered withholding the news that it had issued an arrest warrant for Putin. It changed its mind and opted to go public out of the desire to prevent further war crimes. 

In announcing the issuance of the warrants, ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan commented on the missing children. At least several hundred children who were taken from orphanages and other locations in Ukraine. He said that there are strong suspicions that these children were forcibly made Russian citizens and adopted within Russia. 

The ICC itself has no authority to arrest suspects. And its jurisdiction is only exercised within ICC member states. Russia has not ratified the treaty establishing the ICC.

Nevertheless, Putin's diplomatic activities are likely to be curtailed in the coming days. The possibility exists, for example, that he might be arrested if he visits Japan or another ICC member state.

Khan has emphasized that no matter how difficult the situation, the law must remain paramount. (Read Khan's statement.)

Putin should realize that no matter what excuses he tries to make, he will never escape the shadow of the crimes he has perpetrated.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun