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Putin on the cuffs: ICC issues proper warrants agains the Russian despot

Yesterday, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued a war crimes-related arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and one of his top officials. The despot more than deserves it.

This is a major event because of the players and the crimes at issue, but fundamentally there’s nothing happening out of the ordinary here. A person has committed a series of crimes and the authorities want to take him into custody to answer for what he’s done and face the consequences. The main difference is scale, and that scale makes the need for accountability only more acute, not less.

Everyone ultimately understands that the odds that Putin will ever actually see the inside of an ICC courtroom are zero. The court lacks its own enforcement mechanisms, and even if it had a police force, the Russian president is safely ensconced in the Kremlin and his fortified dachas. If and when he ventures out, international governments would have to weigh the potentially extreme reaction and costs of actually attempting to arrest him.

Still, it is significant to formally establish that the allegations of his war crimes have been investigated and enough evidence gathered seek an arrest, particularly because they relate to more than the obvious fact that Putin violated international law by invading Ukraine. Specifically, the warrants against him and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, relate to the forced deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia, a fact pattern that seems awfully close to one of the definitions of genocide.

Along with United Nations investigations into crimes like the deliberate striking of Ukrainian civilians, these records will establish for posterity how the wannabe czar not only caused thousands of deaths and a litany of destruction in service to his territorial ambitions, but did so while intentionally violating the rules of war to cause maximum devastation. Whether or not Putin himself ever ends up facing justice, the investigations set him up for a harsh judgment in the court of history.

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