Send Ukraine’s children back home, Putin urged

russia orphans - AP
russia orphans - AP
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Karim Khan, the international criminal court prosecutor, pleaded for Russia to return Ukrainian children to their homeland as he met with justice ministers in London on Monday.

“Repatriate children, return the children, reunite the children,” Mr Khan told ministers from over 40 countries as he appealed for international support for the ICC as it investigates possible war crimes in Ukraine.

“If there is any semblance of truth to the utterances that this is for the sake of children, instead of giving them a foreign passport return them to the countries of their nationality,” he added. “These are not politicians, these are not belligerents, these are the most innocent.”

Mr Khan’s comments came after the ICC, based in The Hague, issued an arrest warrant on Friday for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, his Commissioner for Children's Rights, for the war crime of “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Kyiv says more than 16,000 children have been illegally transferred to Russia or Russian-occupied territories since the war started nearly 13 months ago.

Russia has publicly said it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia in what it presents as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and abandoned children in the conflict zone.

Monday’s meeting, hosted by Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, and Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius, the Dutch justice minister, saw Mr Raab promise to “hold war criminals to account”.

Karim Khan - NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Karim Khan - NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“The UK, alongside the international community, will continue to provide the International Criminal Court with the funding, people and expertise to ensure justice is served,” Mr Raab said.

Mr Khan expressed the need for increased monetary backing for the ICC.

The Government has already announced additional funding of nearly £400,000 to fund psychological support for witnesses and victims of crimes or to reinforce British experts with the court.

Other countries were expected to pledge practical and financial support for the court at the conference, according to the justice ministry.

The ICC has more than 900 staff with a budget of 169 million euros for 2023, below the court's request of a 175 million euro budget for the year.

Its budget has not been increased despite 40 of its investigators working inside Ukraine.