World

Putin in Crimea to mark nine years since annexation – a day after war crimes arrest warrant

Putin ‘unruffled and unapologetic’, despite war crimes charge

John Sparks

International correspondent

@sparkomat

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is now liable to arrest in 123 countries – but he knows that no one is going to detain him in Crimea.

The peninsula was seized from Ukraine in 2014 and Russia’s long-time leader has returned to mark the 9th anniversary of its annexation.

It is a good place to see – and be seen.

Putin looked unruffled and unapologetic, one day after he had been indicted by the International Criminal Court for the forced deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

And this was almost certainly the point.

“This is good,” he said, as he was led around a refurbished arts complex by local dignitaries.

“What is it in total, an arts school?” he asked.

“An art school and a children’s camp. We’ve agreed that we’ll select children who are very talented,” replied a local priest.

He did not seem concerned that the president, and Russia’s children’s commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, are wanted for the effective kidnapping of over 100 children.

The allegation should be easy to prove.

In a meeting that was broadcast nationally, Putin and Lvova-Belova casually discuss how she had adopted a 15-year-old Ukrainian boy.

According to the former UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, the indictments are a sign of intent on behalf of the criminal court’s judges.

“I think for many international criminal lawyers, it’s a refreshing and encouraging sign that Prosecutor (Karim Ahmad) Khan is making a decision here to prosecute first, a case that he knows he can prove with very little difficulty. But as I say, more charges are bound to follow.”

Mr Emmerson says the ICC has sent a powerful message to all those involved in war crimes in Ukraine, whether committed in the past or planned in the future.

“The court and the prosecutor have decided that the indictment should be made immediately public, no doubt sending a very clear signal that those responsible for crimes in this war will be held accountable in front of an international criminal court.”

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