Editor’s Observe: Frida Ghitis, (@fridaghitis) a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a weekly opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to The Washington Put up and a columnist for World Politics Evaluate. The views expressed on this commentary are her personal. View extra opinion on CNN.


When the Worldwide Legal Court docket (ICC) introduced on Friday that it had issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and one other key Russian official for prices associated to an alleged scheme to forcibly deport 1000’s of Ukrainian kids to Russia, it additionally successfully positioned Putin’s identify on a brief record alongside a number of the most brutal leaders the world has seen for the reason that finish of World Conflict II. With that, it branded him earlier than all the world — together with the Russian individuals — as a world pariah, doubtlessly responsible of traditionally egregious crimes.

Frida Ghitis

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred to as the ICC’s transfer “outrageous and unacceptable,” dismissing the warrants as “null and void” for Russia. However there’s no query that it is a beautiful, historic reputational blow not simply to Putin however to fashionable Russia.

Solely three sitting heads of state have confronted ICC prices whereas in workplace. The different two had been the late Libyan chief Moammar Gadhafi and Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir, each accused of horrifying crimes in opposition to their very own individuals.

Russia will not be Libya or Sudan, each impoverished creating nations barely out of colonial rule. Russia is among the international locations that helped defeat Hitler’s Germany in World Conflict II. It’s a once-proud nation that emerged from world struggle, and later from communism, with huge pure assets, a extremely educated inhabitants and a drive to grow to be a thriving democracy. It confronted many challenges, however had a promising future.

Then got here Putin, handpicked by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin after which elected president greater than 20 years in the past, who dismantled democracy block by block, tightening his maintain on energy and crushing the nation’s democratic aspirations even earlier than he launched his brutal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Putin is now an accused — not convicted — struggle legal. By most accounts, he enjoys the assist of most Russians. Maybe this may give a few of them motive to rethink. However someday, the Russian individuals will look past the propaganda they’ve been fed, and they’re going to perceive the horror of what’s been perpetrated of their identify.

There’s nearly no likelihood that Putin will face an ICC tribunal in The Hague anytime quickly. As Peskov reiterated in his assertion, Russia doesn’t acknowledge the ICC’s jurisdiction, and so long as Putin is president, he’s prone to stay free. However, until he faces the courtroom after which in some way manages to clear his identify — an final result that’s doubly unlikely — he’ll eternally bear the branding of an accused struggle legal.

Putin, together with Maria Lvova-Belova, his “Commissioner for Youngsters’s Rights,” at the moment are formally accused of violating the legal guidelines of struggle by forcibly eradicating Ukrainian kids and deporting them to Russia. Within the ICC’s phrases, they’re “allegedly accountable for the struggle crime of illegal deportation of inhabitants (kids) and that of illegal switch of inhabitants (kids) from occupied areas of Ukraine.” The arrest warrant states that there are “cheap grounds to consider Mr. Putin bears particular person legal accountability for the aforementioned crimes.”

For now, the ICC is focusing narrowly on only one, however a very horrifying and merciless, side of Russia’s Ukraine marketing campaign. Russia has allegedly been eradicating kids from Ukraine and putting them in relocation camps inside Russia and in Russian houses. Lvova-Belova has been instrumental in finishing up the coverage, which isn’t being carried out in secret. The truth is, she publicly thanked Putin for making it potential for her, personally, to undertake a toddler from Donbas, a Russian-occupied space of Ukraine.

The Russian authorities claims it’s all virtually a humanitarian transfer, geared toward saving Ukrainian kids in a struggle zone. The ICC says it’s a violation of the Geneva Conventions. ICC prosecutors, Ukrainian authorities and teams specializing in finding the youngsters say it’s a part of Putin’s concerted effort to erase Ukraine’s nationhood. US and European officers say the youngsters spend time in a community of dozens of camps the place they bear political reeducation, an effort to show them into Russian residents.

Ukrainian dad and mom are desperately making an attempt to get their kids again.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan mentioned the acts alleged within the warrant, “exhibit an intention to completely take away these kids from their very own nation.”

These are simply the primary two arrest warrants over just one side of Russia’s assault on Ukraine. Khan’s workplace mentioned they’re searching for extra suspects and can situation extra arrest warrants if the proof justifies.

There’s good motive to count on extra. Ukrainian officers and several other organizations have been painstakingly documenting what they consider should not solely struggle crimes but in addition crimes in opposition to humanity, within the expectation that ultimately there will likely be a reckoning.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the information. In his nightly replace to the nation on Friday, he referred to as the ICC’s transfer “a historic determination that can result in historic accountability.”

Zelensky says Ukraine has already recorded 16,000 particular person circumstances of forcible deportations of youngsters,” however the full quantity, he famous, might be a lot increased. “Such a legal operation,” he declared, “would have been inconceivable with out the order of the very best chief of the terrorist state.”

By that, he meant Putin.

Putin’s capacity to journey is now severely restricted, as greater than 120 signatory international locations to the Rome Statute creating the ICC at the moment are required to arrest him if he units foot of their territory. ICC President Choose Piotr Hofmanski mentioned the international locations are “obliged to execute arrest warrants points by the courtroom.”

Putin might imagine he may by no means be arrested; may by no means find yourself in The Hague. However a small rogue’s gallery of twentieth century war-mongers, monsters to lots of their individuals and their neighbors, went from feeling completely safe of their palaces to dealing with a tribunal in The Hague after they misplaced energy at dwelling.

Whether or not or not Putin is ever put in handcuffs, his place in historical past is now safe within the darkest pages of massacres and misrule.

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