Joe Biden says Vladimir Putin “clearly committed war crimes” and says ICC arrest warrant “justified”.

Joe Biden says Vladimir Putin “clearly committed war crimes” after an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant was issued for the Russian leader.

The American President also described the ICC’s decision to issue the arrest warrant as “justified”.

It comes after the intergovernmental group – based in The Hague – indicted Mr Putin to be responsible for kidnapping children from Ukraine.

An arrest warrant was also issued against Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Russia‘s Commissioner for Children on similar allegations of war crimes.

The warrants mean that authorities in those countries would be obliged to arrest them and transfer them to The Hague if either of them set foot in any of the 123 member states of the International Criminal Court.

The Kremlin said Russia, which does not recognize the International Criminal Court, finds the questions asked by the court “outrageous and unacceptable”.

But Mr Biden said at a news conference on Friday: “He is [Putin] clearly committed war crimes.

“I think it’s justified [the warrant]. But the question is – we don’t recognize it internationally either. But I think it makes a very strong point.”

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Although both Russia and the US were once signatories to the Rome Statute – the treaty that established the ICC – the US never ratified the accord, while Russia backed down after the court’s criticism of its 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Alongside the ICC arrest warrant, the US has separately found that Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine.

“There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities (in) Ukraine, and we have made it clear that those responsible must be held accountable,” a State Department spokesman said.

Russia said the ICC arrest warrants are “null and void” as it does not recognize the court.

Meanwhile, Ms Lvova-Belova said her arrest warrant validated her work of “helping the children of our country.”

The allegations come as Russia prepares to mark the ninth anniversary of its annexation of Crimea in 2014, which Mr Putin is expected to mark with a “patriotic” rally at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium this weekend.

What are the allegations?

In a statement, the court claims Russian President is “responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of the population [children] and that of illegitimate population transfers [children] from occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”.

The ICC said its pre-trial chamber found that there was “reasonable reason to believe” that the two suspects were responsible for the alleged war crimes and that Mr Putin “shall bear individual criminal responsibility”.

Russia has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia but presented the program as a humanitarian campaign to protect abandoned children and orphans in conflict zones.

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However, Dominic Waghorn, international affairs editor at Sky News, said the chances of Mr Putin being brought to justice were slim.

Assessing the warrants, Waghorn said there was “a long list of people” who had been charged but never had their day in court.

“Unless the war goes very badly for him – he’s toppled from power and handed over – he’s unlikely to go to trial,” Waghorn said.

How many children were kidnapped from Ukraine?

The exact number of children kidnapped from Ukraine is unclear as different organizations give different estimates.

Waghorn said, “A reputable human rights group in America estimates that 6,000 children have been deported to Russia, Ukrainians estimate it’s closer to 16,000, and the Russians themselves have said that 700,000 children have been taken out of Ukraine since 2014.”

Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential staff, said Ukraine has been working closely with the ICC and is currently investigating over 16,000 cases of forced deportation of children to Russia.

Ukraine has so far managed to secure the return of 308 children.

Investigation of war crimes by the ICC

In a press conference, the President of the International Criminal Court, Piotr Hofmanski, said the arrest warrants were “an important moment in the process of justice”.

He also said that the judges handling the case “have determined that there are credible allegations against these individuals of the alleged crime.”

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A year ago, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan launched an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine.

Mr Khan stressed during previous trips that he was also reviewing targeting of civilian infrastructure and alleged crimes against children, who enjoy special protection under the Geneva Convention.

Ukraine is not a member of the court, but has given jurisdiction over its territory to the International Criminal Court.

Ukrainian and international reaction

In his late-night address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called it a “historic decision that will carry historic responsibility.”

“The head of a terrorist state and another Russian official have been officially suspected of war crimes,” he said.

Secretary of State James Cleverly welcomed the arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, which he said would “hold to account those at the top of the Russian regime, including Vladimir Putin.”

“Work must continue to investigate the atrocities committed,” he wrote on Twitter.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said: “There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine and we have made it clear that those responsible must be held accountable.”

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs and security policy chief, said the arrest warrants were “just the start of holding Russia accountable for crimes and atrocities in Ukraine”.


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