With large-scale protests against war and austerity engulfing the streets of Western (EU) countries, the political elite, in full-fledged panic mode, launched a propaganda stunt by indicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Lvova-Belova is the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights. She and Putin are accused of kidnapping children from what the West calls Ukraine, but what according to new Russian law, obtained by a referendum, is actually now part of Russia.
The Kremlin called the issuance of the ICC warrant outrageous and legally void, as Russia is not a signatory to the treaty that created the ICC.
Allegations Moscow Grabs Ukrainian Children
The ICC claims as evidence, regarding the abduction of children, comes from an October 2022 Associated Press (AP) article by Sarah El Deeb, Anastasia Shvets and Elizaveta Tilna titled: “How Moscow grabs Ukrainian children and makes them Russian.”
Filled with photographs of children who had allegedly been abducted, the article begins with the paragraph: “Olga Lopatkina paced around her basement in circles like a trapped animal. For more than a week, the Ukrainian mother had heard nothing from her six adopted children stranded in Mariupol, and she was going out of her mind with worry.”
The article then goes on to claim that many children, like Lopatkina’s kids, were abducted by Russian forces in the Donbas and taken to Russia; Russia points out that it was actually saving the kids since they had been orphaned by the war and subjected to bombing by the Ukrainian army.
Drawing from interviews with parents, children and officials in both Ukraine and Russia, email and letters, Russian documents and Russian state media, the AP claimed to have found evidence that many of the kids had been taken without their consent, had been lied to by Russian soldiers who said they were not wanted by their parents, had been used for propaganda and were given to Russian families and given Russian citizenship.
Stephen Rapp, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Obama administration, who is advising Ukraine on prosecutions, is quoted as saying that “it’s not something that happens spur of the moment on the battlefield. And so your ability to attribute responsibility to the highest level is much greater here.” He added: “Even where parents are dead, their children must be sheltered, fostered or adopted in Ukraine rather than deported to Russia.”
Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the Mariupol mayor, is also quoted as saying: “It is absolutely a terrible story. We don’t know if our children have an official parent or [step-parents] or something else because they are forcibly disappeared by Russian troops.”
Maria Lvova-Belova is quoted in the piece saying that more than 1,000 children from Ukraine were in Russia and that these children need Russia’s help to overcome trauma that has left them sleeping badly, crying at night and drawing basements and bomb shelters.
At first, she said, a group of 30 children brought to Russia from the basements of Mariupol defiantly sang the Ukrainian national anthem and shouted “Glory to Ukraine!” But now their criticism has been transformed into a “love for Russia,” and she herself has taken in one, a teenager.
Lvova-Belova’s comments indicate that the children are being used as political pawns. Nevertheless, it is not clear that the majority actually had parents or a home to return to after being displaced by the war.
Irish journalist Finian Cunningham wrote that “Russia has evacuated thousands of civilians, including children, from the regions formerly of eastern Ukraine that are now part of the Russian Federation for the precise reason of taking them out of harm’s way from the NATO-backed Nazi regime in Kiev, whose forces have been indiscriminately shelling the Donbass and other areas.”
The AP article leaves out that the majority of atrocities in Mariupol were committed by the Ukrainian Army, including especially the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, making the children victims of the Ukrainian and not Russian government.
Many of the children have been taken furthermore from regions that are now actually part of Russia (which has acquired new territory in the war).
In the past, Putin and Russia have been accused of stealing children from Lugansk, which is also now part of Russia.
As a journalist, I visited Mariupol several times in 2022, when there was still heavy fighting going on, in the harbor and the city center.
Many people in the city told me that they were forced to live in cellars for weeks because of Ukrainian Army shelling and rampaging of the Azov Battalion, which was engaged in heavy fighting with the Russians and then hid in the Azov Steel plant before surrendering in May 2022 (in June 2022, I was the first Dutch journalist to visit the plant).
President Putin paid an unexpected visit to Mariupol and the Donbas last weekend after being accused by the ICC, visiting new apartment blocks. Before that, he had visited Crimea, which declared itself in a referendum nine years ago to be part of Russia.
The West’s Double Standards Continue
The West calls the ICC arrest warrant a big step in condemning President Putin. However, Finian Cunningham wrote that “if anyone should be facing prosecution for war crimes, it is the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Nazi-adulating commander, as well as their sponsors: American, European and NATO leaders.”
“The Kiev regime,” Cunningham continues, “has been shelling the Donbass for nine years since the CIA coup brought to power this fascist junta. NATO trained the Azov Battalion and other Waffen SS-style paramilitaries, which are firing U.S. supplied HIMARS rockets with the help of American, British, French, German, Canadian and Polish mercenaries. Russia intervened in Ukraine last year to put an end to the genocide that Washington and Europe along with their Western media are complicit in.”
A Kangaroo Court
In the past, we have seen how the ICC has been used as a political tool to bludgeon political opponents of the U.S. and West, like Serbian socialist leader Slobodan Milošević who was falsely accused of genocide right after he had been ousted in a CIA-backed color revolution.
The ICC has also gone after many African leaders who have resisted U.S. imperial designs—like former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, and Hutu leaders in Rwanda allied with France against the U.S./UK-backed Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), whose leader, Paul Kagame, has never been prosecuted for his central role in the Rwandan genocide and invasion and plunder of the Congo.
Finian Cunningham noted that the week of the indictment of Putin marked the 20th anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. “[This was] a war that killed as many as one million civilians and destroyed a nation, based on outright fabricated lies, lies that Biden as a then-senator helped to promote. The main architects of those crimes, George W. Bush and Tony Blair have never been mentioned even in passing by lawyers at the ICC. Why is that? Because the ICC is a Kangaroo Court and a political plaything that Western imperialism uses to pursue political enemies.”
More U.S. Hypocrisy
After the indictment against Vladimir Putin was announced, President Biden said that, while the ICC also held no sway in the U.S., the issuance of the warrant “makes a very strong point.”
“He’s clearly committed war crimes,” he told reporters.
But if the latter was true, so had the U.S. To avert prosecution, both houses of the U.S. Congress have approved a law that provides for an invasion of a NATO partner country if American citizens are indicted before the ICC in The Hague.
All the illegal wars the U.S. has waged in recent years, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, to name a few, have resulted in the deaths of millions of people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands, some of whom can now be seen wandering around in Europe.
Then there is Guantánamo Bay, the largest modern U.S. concentration camp, in Cuba, and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. And, of course, do not forget Camp Bucca, also in Iraq, where terrorists such as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were trained and educated by the CIA.
Does President Putin have anything to fear from the ICC, of which the great superpowers of the world, such as the U.S., are not members? No, I don’t think so. The West is awash in hypocritical positions, clinging to a unipolar, neocolonial world.
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