Vladimir Putin, who will receive Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow next week, is now the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the war crime of "illegal deportation" of Ukrainian children during the Russian invasion.
The ICC, which sits in The Hague, has also issued an arrest warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's presidential commissioner for children's rights, on similar charges.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed a "historic decision, which marks the beginning of a historic responsibility", the Kremlin judging for its part that the decision had no legal value.
"Russia, like a number of states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court. Therefore, from the point of view of law, the decisions of this court are null and void," the spokesperson said. of Russian President Dmitry Peskov.
The head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell hailed "an important decision" and the United Kingdom welcomed "this step taken by the independent ICC to force those at the top of the Russian regime, including Vladimir Putin, to accountable".
More than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the invasion on February 24, 2022, according to kyiv, and many have been placed in institutions and foster homes.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan told AFP that Putin was now subject to arrest on the territory of any of the court's 123 member states.
The arrest warrants issued on Friday are "based on scientific evidence, careful consideration and what was said by these two people", Khan said. "The evidence we presented focused on crimes against children. Children are the most vulnerable part of our society."
ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said the issuance of the two arrest warrants was an "important moment in the justice process" for the court.
The warrants, issued following a request by Karim Khan, relate to "alleged war crimes of the deportation of children from occupied Ukrainian territories to the Russian Federation" since the start of the invasion, he said. He specifies.
Mr. Hofmanski added that the execution of these mandates depended "on international cooperation".
Quoted by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti, Maria Lvova-Belova assured that she would continue her work despite the decision of the ICC.
Be that as it may, the issuance of an arrest warrant for a sitting Head of State, member of the UN Security Council, is an unprecedented step for the ICC, created in 2002 to try the worst crimes committed in the world.
His prosecutor has been investigating for more than a year on possible war crimes or crimes against humanity committed during the Russian offensive.
He said earlier this month after a visit to Ukraine that the alleged child abductions were "being investigated on a priority basis".
"Children cannot be treated as spoils of war," he said.
The content of the arrest warrants is kept secret "in order to protect the victims", specified Mr. Hofmanski.
"Nevertheless, the judges of the chamber hearing this case decided to make the existence of the warrants public in the interest of justice and to prevent the commission of future crimes."
Neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the ICC, but kyiv has accepted the court's jurisdiction and is working with Mr Khan's office. Russia denies allegations of war crimes by its troops and experts say it is unlikely to hand over any suspects.
On Friday, Moscow and Beijing also announced Xi Jinping's visit to Russia from March 20 to 22.
MM. Xi and Putin will sign a joint statement to deepen their "strategic relationship entering a new era", Kremlin diplomatic adviser Yuri Ushakov said.
While Washington suspects China of considering arms deliveries to Russia, which Beijing and Moscow deny, the two leaders will also speak of "military-technical" cooperation, again according to the Kremlin.
Quoted by Russian news agencies, Mr. Ushakov also welcomed Mr. Xi's "restraint" on the conflict in Ukraine, a file on which Beijing is presenting itself as a mediator despite its proximity to Moscow.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, in a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kouleba, urged Kiev and Moscow on Thursday to resume peace talks "as soon as possible", according to Beijing.
A call for a ceasefire immediately sanctioned by the United States, according to which it amounts to consolidating Russian advances and giving the Kremlin a chance to prepare a new offensive.
Last month, China had already released a document urging Moscow and kyiv to hold peace talks.
In Bratislava, Slovakia also announced on Friday its decision to supply thirteen MiG-29 fighters to Kiev, after Poland announced the delivery to Ukraine of a “first batch” of four of these aircraft.
These deliveries "will help us effectively defend our skies," Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in a thank you message to Slovakia posted on Twitter. "An aviation coalition is forming!".
Finally, on the eve of the expiry on Saturday of the international agreement on the export of cereals from Ukraine, the UN indicated that discussions on this subject are continuing.
03/17/2023 21:13:20 - The Hague (AFP) - © 2023 AFP