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Russia's Commissioner for Children's Rights shockingly boasted about forcibly taking Ukrainian children to Russia in a conversation with Vladimir Putin. On Friday the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for both the Russian President and his Commissioner for Children's Right's, Maria Lvova-Belova after a conversation which took place in February. The pair stand accused of the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia, which is considered a war crime under Article 8(2)(a)(vii) of the 1998 ICC Statute.
In a statement, the ICC said it had reasonable grounds to believe Putin committed the criminal acts directly, as well as working with others.
The court also accused him of failing to use his presidential powers to stop children being deported. Ms Maria Lvova-Belova is wanted as well for the same crimes, which she appeared to unwittingly confess to during a filmed conversation with her Kremlin boss.
The Commissioner attended a meeting with Putin on February 16, where she told the Russian President that she had recently adopted a 15-year-old child from the occupied city of Mariupol in south-east Ukraine.
She said: "Now I know what it means to be a mother of a child from Donbas. It's hard, but we definitely love each other. I think we can handle anything."
The Commissioner attended a meeting with Putin on February 16th (Image: Getty)
Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov, was practically raised to the ground following weeks of intense Russian artillery bombardment and was eventually captured by Putin's army on May 20, 2022.
During the bombardment, a drama theatre in the city centre was hit by two 500 kilograms (1,100lb) bombs. Around one thousand civilians, including women and children, were sheltering inside the theatre at the time.
Reports claim that at least 600 civilians were killed as a result of the bombing. Ms Lvova-Belova is at the centre of a Russian programme that oversees the forced deportation of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied areas of eastern Ukraine to re-education camps in Russia.
Ukrainian government figures put the number of children taken to Russia at 16,221.
READ MORE: Biden condemns Putin's war crimes as arrest warrant issued
Ukraine artillery opens fire (Image: Ukraine General Staff)
Mariupol, a port city on the Sea of Azov was practically raised to the ground (Image: Getty)
A UN Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, that was published on March 15, quoted witnesses as saying that the transferred children were made to wear "dirty clothes, were screamed at, and called names."
They also said that "some children with disabilities did not receive adequate care and medication." Ms Lvova-Belova was appointed to her post by Putin back in 2021 and has made frequent trips to the occupied territories in Ukraine to help escort children back to Russia.
She often shares photos and videos of the children apparently enjoying their new families on her Telegram channel. The Commissioner has spoken openly of efforts to indoctrinate Ukrainian children taken to Russia.
Last September, she said: "When we brought them to the territory of the Moscow region so that they could recover a little, the story began that they spoke negatively about [Putin], said all sorts of nasty things, sang the anthem of Ukraine, 'Glory to Ukraine' and all that.
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Ukraine War (Image: Ukraine General Staff)
"So yes, there is this kind of negativity, maybe in the beginning, but then it turns into love for Russia."
US President Joe Biden welcomed the ICC's decision to charge Putin with war crimes, saying the decision was "justified".
He told reporters on Friday: "Well, I think it’s justified. But the question is – it’s not recognised internationally by us either.
"But I think it makes a very strong point."