The Kremlin has launched criminal proceedings against the prosecutor and several judges of the International Criminal Court, apparently in retaliation for the court’s arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said in a Telegram post on Saturday that British prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan had “held a knowingly innocent person criminally liable, combined with unlawfully accusing a person of committing a serious or particularly serious crime.”
The statement said Khan, along with Justices Tomoko Akane, Rosario Salvatore Aitala and Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godinez, made “unlawful decisions” in the arrests of President Vladimir Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, his presidential commissioner for children’s rights.
“The prosecution is manifestly unlawful as there is no ground for criminal liability,” the statement said, adding that Khan had tried to complicate international relations.
The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova in March for allegedly overseeing the illegal kidnapping and deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.
The judges found that there were “reasonable reasons to believe that Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the deportations, the court said in a statement at the time.
Ukraine is not a member of the court, but has given it jurisdiction over its territory. After issuing the arrest warrant for Putin, the court said Khan had visited the country four times since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, when he launched his investigation into attacks on key civilian infrastructure and homes, and into the alleged deportations.
The US does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction, and Moscow officially withdrew its signature from the founding statute in November 2016, a day after the court released a report classifying the annexation of Crimea as an occupation.
The issuance of the arrest warrant for Putin was a largely symbolic move aimed at forcing countries that recognize the jurisdiction of the court to hand the Russian president over to the court if he entered their territory.
In fact, however, it remains unlikely that Putin will be arrested given the international principles of immunity from arrest for presiding heads of state.
Khan is also unlikely to be arrested.
Since the first days of Ukraine’s invasion last February, Kiev has accused Moscow of forcibly kidnapping children and adults into Russian territory.
Russian officials have consistently denied the allegations, calling them “fantasy” intended to discredit Moscow. The Russian embassy in the United States said in February that the country had taken in children fleeing the fighting.
The United Nations has also conducted investigations into Russian attacks on civilians in Ukraine, including systematic torture and killings in occupied territories, citing these as potential problems that amount to war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
The announcement by Russia’s investigative committee came a day after the country’s State Department banned 500 Americans from Russia, including former President Barack Obama.
It was in response to the recent round of 300 US sanctions against individuals, entities, ships and aircraft that have been “widely” imposed [restrict] Categories of goods vital to the battlefield.”