In February, Moscow publicly televised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pageantry show, marking the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During the propaganda laden presentation, captured children from war torn Ukraine were paraded on stage, singing the praises of their captors.
During the show, children from Mariupol were brought out to “thank” the invaders. Anna Naumenko, a 15-year-old girl thanked a soldier nicknamed “Yuri Gagarin” for her rescue, “Thank you Uncle Yura for saving me, my sister and hundreds of thousands of children in Mariupol.” Many of the children were recognized by neighbors from Mariupol. “The abomination is that these are not actors,” wrote one neighbor. “They are really children from Mariupol.” The sad reality is that these children had suffered Russian bombing, cold and hunger, less than a year ago.
War Crimes Committed
Even though Putin and his staffers believe forced deportation from Ukraine and assimilation by Russia to be appropriate, these acts are not perceived that way by the international community. On Friday, the International Criminal Court (ICC or ICCt) issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president, for overseeing “war crimes” and the unlawful abduction and deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia. The ICC is an international tribunal seated in The Hague, Netherlands. The ICC has permanent jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression.
The ICC has issued arrest warrants before, for the likes of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, and President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan in 2009. However, in recognition for the offenses, President Putin’s warrant was issued and announced to world quickly. When the ICC issued the arrest warrant for Putin on Friday for the deportations, it was recognition of his actions that have been carried out in full view of the public.
The World Just Became Smaller Place for Putin
Even though handcuffs will not likely be placed on the Russian President any time soon, after the ICC arrest warrant announcement, U.S. officials are saying Putin’s world is now severely limited. The former KGB agent is officially an international criminal and travel outside Russia will be difficult at best.
“The result of this is he’s not going to travel any place he thinks he might get arrested,” said Todd Buchwald, former head of the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice. Under the statutes of the ICC, over 120 signatory countries are obliged to carry out arrest warrants should the accused enter into their territory, regardless of the accused’s position.
No End to the Crimes in Site
Russia’s terrifying abduction and deportation of the children has been well documented. After Mariupol, when Russian forces prepared to withdraw from Kherson late last, year local officials sprang into action. Saving all but 2 children, doctors at a hospital hid babies, falsified their records, and placed ventilation machines next to children. As the Russian soldiers arrived at the Kherson Regional Hospital, they perceived the infants to be critically ill and unable to move according to the hospital’s director, Inna Kholodnyak. Staffers saved 14 babies from being transferred to Russia for resettlement in foster families, destined for Russian citizenship.
Earlier in March, local Russian proxy leaders within occupied Ukraine reportedly were issuing “evacuation orders” before the expected spring offensive. These orders are believed to be a prelude to increased deportations. News outlets reported over the weekend that Russia is currently signaling that it will take more Ukrainian Children, and that Putin’s offenses are crimes in progress.
Additionally, last month Russian forces closed roads from the occupied territories leading to the rest of Ukraine, making it much harder for people to escape. The only open roads lead deeper toward Russia through occupied territories.