The path of Putin and Lvova-Belova to ICC's arrest warrants

The path of Putin and Lvova-Belova to ICC's arrest warrants

An analysis of the non-obvious details of the Kremlin's actions regarding the abduction of Ukrainian children

On March 17, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his children's rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova. This was done due to the suspected illegal deportation of the population, particularly children, from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia.

The topic has already been discussed "in the first round." The audience was informed about who the still not very well-known Lvova-Belova is. Also, many people mocked sloppy statements by the two suspects who actually testified against themselves. It's really strange how they could be so inadequate. To figure this out, let's take a closer look at the event and its background.


The beginning of the pending criminal case was laid in March 2022. Then, about two weeks after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it was clear that the blitzkrieg had failed. But some illusions remained. In addition, the rhetoric from the days preceding the war stuck in the heads.

On March 9, a meeting between Putin and Lvova-Belova took place in the Kremlin. And an important phrase by the ombudsman from there remained little noticed: "Regarding the evacuated [from Donbas] residents, families with children, the commissioners joined the work. I asked the Ministry of Emergency Situations to include them in the regional headquarters. Now they take an active part in reception, monitoring, and working on individual needs."

After the Kremlin started this great war, it was often heard that it had no pretext, or provocation, like the Nazi Gleiwitz before the invasion of Poland or the Soviet Mainila before the aggression against Finland. This is not entirely accurate. In fact, the Kremlin was creating a pretext for unleashing a criminal war. But it was stretched out in time and not accented.

Since the middle of February 2022, the Russian media began to promote the topic that the Ukrainian Armed Forces allegedly began regular mass shelling of the territories of the "DPR" and "LPR." On Friday, February 18, Russian Gauleiters in Luhansk and Donetsk announced the need for an emergency evacuation of the population to Russian territory. (According to the metadata of the videos, they were recorded on February 16). That was Putin's Gleiwitz-Mainila, which only stretched over five days. In their inadequacy, it seemed to them that it was convincing - both for the internal information market and for the external one. But outside of Russia, such obvious nonsense was not only not accepted as a pretext, but it was practically not noticed at all.

However, in her conversation on March 9, Lvova-Belova started with this very topic - the work on "evacuation," which was fake in justification, but completely real in terms of the event, transportation. And only after that, she moved on to the issue of "1,090 orphans from various children's institutions in Donbas" and how it is legally difficult to adopt those who do not have a Russian document/passport. Putin promised to eliminate this "legislative delay."


At the end of May 2022, he signed a decree on a simplified procedure for obtaining Russian citizenship for children from "LPR, DPR and Ukraine." After that, the machine for deporting Ukrainian children to Russia, placing and adopting them there started working faster.

Incidentally, it is important to note that, to put it mildly, not everything is fine in this area in Russia itself. Periodically, big scandals arise. For example, in 2018-2019, there was a high-profile story about an orphanage near Chelyabinsk, which the media called a "sex concentration camp" (the investigation, by and large, ended in failure). Already after the beginning of the great war, in January 2023, there was an investigation conducted by the Verstka news outlet that children from a Kherson orphanage were taken to the Elochka boarding school in Russian-annexed Simferopol, which in 2020 was called a "children's concentration camp" because of the cruel treatment of children. (Here, at the second attempt, it was possible to start an investigation, but it is still slowing).

However, in the case of children from the occupied Ukrainian territories, Russian propaganda, which includes the children's ombudsperson, had to work to create a good picture.

Back then, on May 25, 2022, Putin signed a law on a simplified procedure for granting Russian citizenship to residents of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine. A few months before the sham September referendums, this was, in fact, the announcement of plans for a future attempt to annex these regions (the "Crimean corridor").

But before the "referendums" were held, Lvova-Belova showed some accuracy and spoke only about orphans from the puppet "republics." During her trip to the Nizhny Novgorod region on September 22, she announced that together with the governor of the region, Gleb Nikitin, she would transfer 24 children to the custody of nine Nizhny Novgorod families. (In this regard, Mr. Nikitin can be congratulated. In principle, the International Criminal Court can issue a warrant of arrest for him even now).

The same report states that similar work is being carried out in 13 other regions: Astrakhan, Voronezh, Kursk, Moscow, Murmansk, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, Penza, Rostov, Ryazan, Samara, Chelyabinsk regions and Moscow city.


After the "referendums" and "incorporation of four regions to Russia" (late September - early October 2022), Lvova-Belova made a trip to all four new temporarily occupied regions on November 7-11 in order to officially record her activities there, including the bringing (deportation) of Ukrainian children from the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

And then let's pay attention to one phrase after her conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (February 2, 2023): "The participants in the meeting considered the problem of circulating on international platforms and in the foreign press unreliable information about Russia's actions on the evacuation of children from Donbas and their living arrangements."

It is a bit strange that it is only about "children from Donbas." After all, by that time, quite a lot was already known about deportations from other regions (the Verstka article about the deportation of children to the "children's concentration camp" in Simferopol). On the other hand, it is useful that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov's participation in the diplomatic and informational cover-up of this criminal activity was recorded for The Hague.

Immediately after that, on February 2-6, Lvova-Belova made another trip to the temporarily occupied territories. However, Crimea and Sevastopol have now been added to those four.

A key conversation with Putin in Novo-Ogaryovo took place on February 16, 2023, that is, the day before the arrest warrants were issued in The Hague. There are many topics worth noting. But before talking about them, it is necessary to go back a little.


On September 27, 2022, a two-hour briefing was held in the Russian Civic Chamber simultaneously with sham "referendums" in four Ukrainian regions. It began with a conversation with Lvova-Belova. And there she spoke excessively frankly about the experience of "re-educating" Ukrainian children, strictly speaking - about deliberate work on changing their identity.

One specific example was cited of how a group of 30 children was taken from Mariupol to the Moscow region during the war. (They were allegedly abandoned by their adoptive parents). In the suburbs of Moscow, children began to be re-educated or, according to the ombudsperson, "integrated." At first, they "spoke negatively about President [Putin], said all kinds of abominations, sang the national anthem of Ukraine, said "Glory to Ukraine!" and something like that." But then they ended up in foster families (including one in the family of Lvova-Belova herself). And they began to be integrated, the ombudsperson said, they fell in love with Russia.

These words, in fact, are quite disgusting and self-revealing. But they are well complemented by a large Verstka article about Lvova-Belova.

It turns out that such work came on stream. It is called "integration changes 'After Tomorrow'" for children from the occupied Ukrainian territories. And they take them not only to the suburbs of Moscow, but also to the Black Sea coast: "Just yesterday we were under fire in Donbas, and today there's sea, sun, energy." In particular, in Tuapse.

Changes last two weeks. But not all children return home after them. According to the Russian side, they themselves do not want to. Parents can come to pick them up. But at the same time, it is dangerous for men to travel, because they will have to pass through filtration camps, from where, by the way, the occupation troops can immediately send them to the front. (In particular, there was similar information about the "indefinite" detention of children from Enerhodar. The Ukrainian side also claimed that the parents of these children were being blackmailed, making them change their passports and support closer cooperation with Russia). And now let's imagine the state of children who are in the full power of the adults who hold them. And they are faced with such a choice - to return to their parents, but in the gloomy occupation weekdays not far from the front line with "hits," or to stay in a safe place of the sanatorium type.

What else is important in the quoted recognition of Lvova-Belova? She herself confirms the fact that children are brought to such "integration changes" by force - without their consent: they scold Putin, sing the national anthem of Ukraine and say "Glory to Ukraine!" That is, they have quite an obvious Ukrainian identity. After that, they are at least exposed to massive psychological influence and then say that they fell in love with Russia and do not want to return to Ukraine. This behavior of children can be qualified as a "survival strategy."

And after that, we will consider a March 16 conversation between two clients of The Hague, Putin and Lvova-Belova. Fortunately, a rather large and interesting fragment has been published on the website of the Kremlin. Let's list the most important of it point by point.


First. A "big all-Russian event" is scheduled for March-April: a congress of regional children's ombudspersons. Together with the Russian Ministry of Health, the participants in the meeting will discuss "medical care for children." Here everything (except the exact terms) is quite clear. It will be a pompous and official event that representatives of the occupied regions will also attend. A propaganda picture of touching care for children will be created, especially in the war zone. I am sure the ICC and Ukrainian concerned agencies have already taken note of this event.

Second. Lvova-Belova reported on the "integration changes" that were launched in August. At the moment, five changes have been made for 1,000 children, and in the near future, there will be ten more changes for 2,000 children. At the same time, two elite guidance entities were mentioned. This is "Sirius", a propaganda "educational center for gifted children" within the boundaries of Greater Sochi. Another one is "Russia is a country of opportunities," a platform for all-Russian "leadership projects." It can be assumed that in the near future, propagandists will promote several personalities from the number of kidnapped Ukrainian children in order to show how they realized themselves and "acquired their happiness" in "a great and united Russia."

Third. Lvova-Belova confirmed that in the regions that received Ukrainian children for care, "governors are leading all this, providing all the necessary assistance." Therefore, the court in The Hague is probably already closely interested in the heads of at least the above-mentioned 14 Russian regions.

Fourth. The ombudsperson said that her agency allegedly does not prevent the reunification of families if there are blood relatives of children taken out of Ukraine. There is at least one such example. Will there be more? There could be more after The Hague decision of March 17.

Fifth. In Chechnya, under Kadyrov's patronage, a "trial military-patriotic change [was held] for teenagers who committed offenses or were registered in the juvenile department." But it is not only Chechen teenagers, 200 people were collected and brought from all over. After their arrival, "a whole box of prohibited items" (cigarettes, knives) was collected. There is a vague description of what this group of children was doing on the spot: instead of "moral lessons and punishments," they were "offered something new, given the opportunity to feel like people." Knowing Kadyrov's preferences, we can assume that these were the basics of military, including special forces training (this is indirectly evidenced by the fact that the ombudsperson did not name the place where it was held, as well as her words about the host party: " these are strong men who you want to follow"). "Then they [children] already looked at architecture, learned traditions, learned to dance lezginka. In general, they returned excited," sums up Lvova-Belova. Further, a whole cycle of similar changes entitled "Power of the Caucasus" is planned. (We remember the Kadyrov slogan used by the security forces - "Akhmat is power"). The challenge for us in the future is to find out whether children from temporarily occupied Ukrainian regions are brought to this dubious event.

Sixth. Lvova-Belova said that in one year (since Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine began), her budget and team tripled. It can be assumed that this is largely related to work in the occupied territories. At the same time, the ombudsperson separately thanked several businessmen for the financial support provided - Viktor and Oksana Medvedchuk, as well as the owner of the Tsargorod TV channel, one of the organizers of the hybrid war that began in 2014, Konstantin Malofeev. It seems that the court in The Hague should take a closer look at them.


A few more general remarks. For some reason, Russian propaganda did not widely promote theories involving "a crucified boy in panties" that are told by Lvova-Belova. But we should know and remember these inventions of hers.

The first one is about a girl found under rubble in Donbas with a swastika carved on her back, whom doctors later failed to save. It can be just a fantasy or a retelling of someone else's horror stories. But remembering the terrible and documented examples of sadistic treatment of Ukrainian children by the Russian military (among whom are many felons convicted of grave crimes), we can assume that even in this case, the Ukrainian military is charged with the crime committed by the Russians.

The second story, told in a long conversation with Putin, is "how the Ukrainian Armed Forces [in Mariupol] shot in the back, how [children] there covered their brothers and sisters." One thing is clear here - once in Mariupol besieged by the Russians, having found themselves in the combat zone, children could be hiding their younger sisters and brothers from random bullets. And then it is only necessary to "re-stick labels" or, as genocide researchers say, to make a "mirror accusation", to say that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are to blame for everything.

So far, Lvova-Belova has avoided specifics in connection with similar stories. But for the future, we must be prepared for the fact that the next time a "crucified boy" or "girl with a swastika" will get a name in her stories.

It is also important to note that Putin and Lvova-Belova often use the formulation of the priority of "children's interests," which is the basis of the legislation of democratic countries on the protection of children's rights. This will probably be used in future defense posts. In addition, the ombudsperson places special emphasis on helping children with serious illnesses, particularly in the occupied territories. It is likely that some specific examples of helping them could also be at the center of propaganda campaigns.

There is one memory that reveals the reasons for such carelessness of Putin and Lvova-Belova in providing evidence against themselves for the International Criminal Court.

Do you remember such a recent idol of Russia (including liberal Russia), Elizaveta Glinka, also known as "Dr. Liza"? In 2014, after Russia launched its "hybrid war," Ukrainian children, often sick ones, were taken out of the war zone on our territory. They were taken to Russia! Ukraine protested because of this even then. But under those conditions, there was no great international support. As a result, Glinka did not receive any punishment. Moreover, in Russia, especially after she died in a plane crash, she became a universally recognized icon of charity, including helping children. Despite the fact that, in addition, she directly assisted the Kremlin in denying Russian participation in the war in Donbas.

And any unpunished crime, as you know, becomes a prerequisite for the next one. Often a graver one.

Oleg Kudrin, Riga

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