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Leonid Bershidsky

Finally, a Serious Offer to Take Putin Off Russia’s Hands

The International Criminal Court just made it easier for any successor to get rid of the dictator and his shadow.

The position isn’t permanent.

The position isn’t permanent.

Photographer: Sergei Karpukhin/AFP via Getty Images

Dmitry Kiselyov, the Russian propagandist-in-chief who rarely misses a chance to lash out at the “Russophobic” West, spent the nearly three hours of his regular state TV Sunday broadcast avoiding the subject of the arrest order for Vladimir Putin, issued by the International Criminal Court in the Hague. That’s no oversight on his part: For all the bluster heard from other pro-Putin figures, the court’s move can have more than purely symbolic consequences.

The ICC order hasn’t been released, but the court let it be known that the charges against Putin have to do with the “unlawful transfer” of children from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. A fresh UN Human Rights Council report sheds light on these accusations. While Russia claims merely to have moved the children out of harm’s way temporarily, the report says Russia violated international law in taking them to Russia: “The transfers were not justified by safety or medical reasons. There seems to be no indication that it was impossible to allow the children to relocate to territory under Ukrainian Government control. It also does not appear that Russian authorities sought to establish contact with the children’s relatives or with Ukrainian authorities.”

Further charges against Putin will inevitably follow — the largest investigative group ever formed by the ICC is at work in Ukraine, and the court’s chief prosecutor, the British lawyer Karim Ahmad Khan, appears to regard the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the biggest group of cases in his rather eventful career. Plenty of war crimes have been and are still being committed by the invading army, and some of them — like the deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure — don’t even require much proof because Russia has never denied its missile strikes on power stations.