Olena Zelenska calls for Vladimir Putin’s arrest for abducting Ukrainian children
Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska has called for the arrest of Vladimir Putin for suspected war crimes, accusing him and other senior Russian officials of abducting children.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March on charges related to the illegal deportation of about 20,000 Ukrainian children to Russia or Kremlin-controlled areas of Ukraine.
Russia is not a member of the ICC and rejects its jurisdiction. However, the ICC ruling has the potential to complicate Putin’s foreign trips, including a planned visit to South Africa in August.
Speaking publicly about the charges for the first time, Ms Zelenska accused Russian leaders of abducting thousands of children in an effort to “retrain them into becoming Russians”.
She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Yes, we are all waiting for this [for Putin to be arrested] but it’s not only him.
“There are thousands of people who are undermining the rights of children – human rights. This is scary. 19,000 Ukrainian children have now been illegally taken to Russia.
“This is a lot. They’re not cars, fridges, cattle – they’re people, children. Russia is making efforts to wipe their memories to retrain them into becoming Russians. We have thousands of children traumatised psychologically.
“Children see what they are not supposed to see and feel what they’re not supposed to feel – deaths of their relatives, deaths of their parents, torture. This is very scary, especially from the point of view of the child.”
Her husband, Ukrainian President Voldomyr Zelensky, has vowed Putin will face an international war crimes court when Ukraine wins the war.
Mr Zelensky was speaking at The Hague, which hosts the ICC, as he said the Russian leader “deserves to be sentenced for these criminal actions right here in the capital of international law”.
He added: “And I’m sure we will see that happen when we win. And we will win.”
The ICC cannot prosecute the crime of war aggression itself and Mr Zelensky appealed for a fully-fledged tribunal to take that action.
He said: “If we want true justice, we should not look for excuses and should not refer to the shortcomings of the current international law but make bold decisions that will correct that shortcomings that unfortunately exist.”
Mr Zelensky’s speech came a day after he denied Ukrainian forces were responsible for what the Kremlin called an attempt to assassinate Putin in a drone attack on Moscow.
The Kremlin promised retaliation for what it termed a “terrorist” act.
Putin’s spokesman accused the US of being behind the alleged attack. Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin was “well aware that the decision on such actions and terrorist attacks is not made in Kyiv, but in Washington”.