The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of being responsible for the war crime of illegal deportation of children from Ukraine.
In its first warrant for Ukraine, the ICC called on Friday for Putin’s arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
“The crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian-occupied territory at least from 24 February 2022. There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes.”
“The world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable,” Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said on social media.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the “historic” decision in a post on social media.
“A historic decision from which historic responsibility will begin,” he wrote.
Earlier, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin also welcomed the move saying, “the world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable.”
Although world leaders have been indicted before, it was the first time the ICC has issued a warrant against a leader of one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Russia dimisses ICC warrant
Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during its one-year military operation in its neighbouring country.
The ICC arrest warrants “have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel.
She added that Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty underpinning the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal.
Earlier this week the Reuters news agency reported that the court was expected to issue warrants.
Separately, the court issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, on the same charges.
Russia has not concealed a programme under which it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia but presents it as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan opened an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine a year ago.
He highlighted during four trips to Ukraine that he was looking at alleged crimes against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure.
The court’s president, Piotr Hofmanski, also said in a video statement that while the ICC’s judges have issued the warrants, it will be up to the international community to enforce them. The court has no police force of its own to do so.
“The judges issued arrest warrants. The execution depends on international cooperation,” he said.
The court can impose a maximum sentence of life imprisonment “when justified by the extreme gravity of the crime and the individual circumstances of the convicted person,” according to its founding treaty known as the Rome Statute.
Still, the chances of a trial of any Russians at the ICC remain extremely unlikely, as Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction — a position it vehemently reaffirmed on Friday.