Ukraine-Russia war – live: Vladimir Putin makes surprise trip to Crimea as arrest warrant issued
Russian president Vladimir Putin has made a surprise last-minute trip to a children’s centre in Crimea on the anniversary of the Kremlin’s annexation of the region.
The court specifically accused him on Friday of bearing personal responsibility for the abduction of children from Ukraine during Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country, which started almost 13 months ago.
Responding to the ICC move, US president Joe Biden said Mr Putin had “clearly committed war crimes.” He added: “I think it’s justified. But the question is – it’s not recognised internationally by us either. But I think it makes a very strong point.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia does not recognise the ICC and regards its decisions “legally void”. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move that most of the world considered illegal.
Have other courts put world leaders on trial?
Apart from the ICC, several former leaders have been tried by other international courts.
Among the notable cases is that of Slobodan Milosevic, former president of Serbia and Yugoslavia who became the first former head of state to appear before an international tribunal since World War Two when he was tried at a UN court for alleged crimes during the 1990s Balkan wars. He died in custody in 2006 before a verdict was reached.
Liberian former leader Charles Taylor was jailed for 50 years in 2012 after he was found guilty of war crimes by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. He was the first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders after World War Two.
Former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, one of Milosevic’s adversaries in the 1990s Balkan wars, left office after being indicted for war crimes by the Kosovo war crimes tribunal in The Hague. He denies all the charges and is due to go on trial next month.
Has the ICC issued arrests warrants for other heads of states?
Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi are the only other leaders to have been indicted by the ICC while serving as head of state. Charges against Gaddafi were terminated after he was overthrown and killed in 2011.
Bashir, who was indicted in 2009 for genocide in Darfur, remained in office for another decade until he was toppled in a coup. He has since been prosecuted in Sudan for other crimes but has not been handed to the ICC.
While in office, he travelled to a number of Arab and African countries, including ICC member states Chad, Djibouti, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and Uganda, which declined to detain him. The court rebuked those countries or referred them to the UN Security Council for non-compliance.
The ICC has tried one former head of state after he left office: former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, who was acquitted of all charges in 2019 after a three-year trial.
Can Putin be detained abroad over ICC arrest warrant?
The ICC’s 123 member states are obliged to detain and transfer Putin if he sets foot on their territory. Russia is not a member and neither are China, the United States or India, which is hosting a summit later this year of leaders of the G20 group of big economies, which includes Russia.
The world’s permanent war crimes court was created by the Rome Statute, a treaty ratified by all the EU states, as well as Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, 33 African countries and 19 nations in the South Pacific.
Russia signed the Rome Statute in 2000, but withdrew its backing in 2016 after the ICC classified Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula as an armed conflict.
“Putin is not stupid. He’s not going to travel abroad to a country where he might be arrested,” said assistant professor of history at the Utrecht University Iva Vukusic.
“He is not going to be able to travel pretty much anywhere else beyond the countries that are either clearly allies or at least somewhat aligned (with) Russia,” Vukusic said.
Will Putin face trial after ICC issued an arrest warrant for him?
The ICC’s arrest warrant was the first issued against a leader of one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The court also issued a warrant for the arrest of Maria Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation.
The move has been dismissed by Moscow and welcomed by Ukraine as a major breakthrough. But, the chances of Putin facing trial at the ICC are highly unlikely because Moscow does not recognise its jurisdiction or extradite its nationals.
Putin and Xi might have a bromance but it’s clear who holds the power
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have met around 40 times since China’s leader assumed the presidency in 2012. In many ways, the camaraderie between the pair has come to define the diplomatic relations between Moscow and Beijing across the last decade (Chris Stevenson writes).
Xi made Moscow his first overseas visit as president in 2013 and this latest visit comes next week in the wake of him being handed an unprecedented third term as president. During that time, the greetings between Xi and Putin have evolved from “dear president” to “dear friend” and later to “my old friend”. Last year, just a few weeks before Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine the leaders met and announced a “no limits” partnership between their two nations.
Historically, relations between China and Russia have been fraught with distrust and confrontation, particularly at the height of their Cold War schism in the late 1960s, but Putin and Xi have changed the dynamic. On his last visit to Moscow, in 2019, Xi spoke of his “deep personal friendship” with his Russian counterpart. “In the past six years, we have met nearly 30 times. Russia is the country that I have visited the most times, and President Putin is my best friend and colleague,” Xi said. Both leaders share an objective of altering the world order, and they will continue to pursue that.
Biden says Putin has ‘clearly committed war crimes’ and ICC charges are justified
US president Joe Biden said on Friday his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin “clearly committed” war crimes during the course of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine since the conflict erupted in the former Soviet nation in February last year.
“He’s clearly committed war crimes,” the US president said on Friday referring to the Russian leader.
Speaking on the arrest warrant for Mr Putin issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday, Mr Biden said: “Well, I think it’s justified. But the question is – it is not recognised internationally by us either. But I think it makes a very strong point.”
The US is not a member country of the global court.
Pope promotes ‘humanitarian corridors’ for migrants
Pope Francis met today with thousands of refugees and the charity groups helping them as he sought to promote legal migration routes to Europe as an alternative to smuggling operations that he said have turned the Mediterranean Sea into a “cemetery.”
Francis said “humanitarian corridors,” which have operated in Italy since 2016, saved lives and helped newly arrived migrants get acclimated while church groups provided housing, education and work opportunities.
“Humanitarian corridors not only aim to bring refugees to Italy and other European countries, rescuing them from situations of uncertainty, danger and endless waiting; they also work toward integration,” he said.
The Sant’Egidio Catholic charity, the Federation of Evangelical Churches and the Waldensian Church spearheaded the ecumenical humanitarian transfer initiative in Italy, which has brought more than 6,000 people to Europe, Francis was told.
Families from Syria, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Ukraine were in the Vatican auditorium to meet with the pope.
Who are the Wagner mercenaries and why are they so involved in Ukraine?
As the Russia-affiliated Wagner group embarks on a mass recruitment drive, get up to speed on the band of mercenaries led by Vladimir Putin’s former caterer:
Russia confirms grain deal extension
Russia has notified all parties to the Black Sea grain deal that the agreement has been extended for 60 days and reiterated it would not consider another extension until its concerns have been addressed, Moscow said on Saturday.
Earlier, Turkey and the United Nations said the deal had been extended but did not say for how long. A Ukrainian government minister said it would last 120 days.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova posted a copy of a letter from Russia’s permanent representation to the United Nations saying Moscow would not object to the deal being extended by 60 days to 18 May.
“Consideration by the Russian side of a further extension of the (deal) after the indicated date will only be possible subject to tangible progress” being made on the question of exporting Russian food and fertilizer, it said.
Russia says that although these exports have not been explicitly targeted by the West, sanctions on its payments, logistics and insurance industries are creating barriers
Explained: How a warrant for Putin puts new spin on Xi visit to Russia
But they also revealed the perils of global diplomacy: Hours after Friday’s announcement of the trip, an international arrest warrant was issued for Putin on war crimes charges, taking at least some wind out of the sails of China’s big reveal.
Matthew Lee reports: