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Could Putin Be Put On Trial for the Ukraine War?

Russian T-72 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The EU declaring that Russia is now a state sponsor of terror is a bold move that will surely drive a reaction from Moscow and Russian President Putin. But is the move designed with a much bigger legal play in mind someday? 

The EU Parliament on Wednesday voted to declare Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” over its invasion of Ukraine.

The step is a mostly-symbolic gesture, prompted by evidence of war crimes in the nine-month-old invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.

In a statement, the parliament said that it hoped the designation could lead to legal consequences for Russian leaders like President Vladimir Putin in a hypothetical war-crimes trial.

Parliament members voted in favor of the move by 494 votes in support, 58 against, and 44 abstentions.

The parliament, which is the legislature for the European Union, said in a Wednesday statement that “Following the atrocities carried out by [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s regime against Ukrainian civilians, MEPs have recognised Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

“MEPs highlight that the deliberate attacks and atrocities committed by Russian forces and their proxies against civilians in Ukraine, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and other serious violations of international and humanitarian law amount to acts of terror and constitute war crimes.”

It said in a statement before the vote that the move would aid efforts for Putin to face a war crimes trial.

“By declaring Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, MEPs want to prepare the ground for Putin and his government to be held accountable for these crimes before an international tribunal.”

US President Joe Biden, officials in Ukraine, and some European national governments have already called for Putin to face a tribunal.

Many experts have said it is unlikely this will actually happen, as it would be legally very difficult to prosecute Putin.

There is some precedent, however, for world leaders to face such a trial.

Former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milošević was tried at the International Criminal Tribunal in a years-long trial that stated in 2002 with charges including genocide and war crimes, but he died before it ended.

Sinéad Baker is a Senior News Reporter based in Business Insider’s London bureau, focusing on breaking news. Sinéad most often covers global and US politics. She has closely covered the 2020 presidential race and crises in international diplomacy. She has appeared on BBC News and The Guardian’s politics podcast to talk about developments around the world, and has been cited by Congressional hearings. Sinéad previously completed a master’s degree in investigative journalism at City, University of London, and has written for The Guardian, The Observer, and Sinéad is the former editor of the multi-award-winning The University Times in Dublin. This first appeared in Insider. 

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Sinéad Baker is a News Reporter based in Business Insider's London bureau.

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