(Adds Biden quote on war crimes, paragraph 3)
By Jeff Mason and Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON, March 17 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has clearly committed war crimes and the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to issue an arrest warrant for him was justified.
The ICC earlier on Friday called for Putin’s arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from Ukraine to Russia since Moscow’s invasion began of its neighbor last year. The United States is not a member of the ICC.
“He’s clearly committed war crimes,” Biden told reporters, referring to Putin.
“Well, I think it’s justified,” Biden added, referring to the warrant. “But the question is – it’s not recognized internationally by us either. But I think it makes a very strong point.”
The United States separately has concluded that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine and supports accountability for perpetrators of war crimes, a State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities (in) Ukraine, and we have been clear that those responsible must be held accountable,” the spokesperson added. “This was a decision the ICC prosecutor reached independently based on the facts before him.”
The ICC move obligates the court’s 123 member states to arrest Putin and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory. The ICC also issued a warrant on Friday for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, on the same charges.
A U.S.-backed report by Yale University researchers last month said Russia has held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children in at least 43 camps and other facilities as part of a “large-scale systematic network.”
Russia has denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during its invasion. The Kremlin said on Friday the ICC arrest warrant against Putin was outrageous, but meaningless with respect to Russia.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Jeff Mason and Kanishka Singh; Editing by Chris Reese, Will Dunham and Cynthia Osterman)