The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The court accuses him of war crimes and has focused its claims on the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.
It claims the crimes were committed in Ukraine beginning on February 24, 2022, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion.
Moscow has denied the allegations and labelled the warrants as “outrageous”.
The move is unlikely to have much of an impact because the ICC lacks the authority to arrest suspects and can only exercise jurisdiction within its member countries, of which Russia is not one.
However, it may have other consequences for the president, such as preventing him from traveling internationally.
The ICC stated in a statement that it had reasonable grounds to believe Mr Putin committed the crimes directly as well as in collaboration with others. It also accused him of failing to use his presidential powers to prevent the deportation of children.
When asked about the ICC’s move, US President Joe Biden said “well, I think it’s justified”. “I think it makes a very strong point,” he said, despite the fact that the US is not a member of the ICC. Mr Putin has “clearly committed war crimes,” he claims.
Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, is also wanted by the ICC for the same crimes.
She has previously spoken openly about efforts to indoctrinate Ukrainian children sent to Russia.
Ms Lvova-Belova complained in September that some children removed from Mariupol “spoke badly about the [Russian President], said horrible things, and sang the Ukrainian anthem.”
She also claimed to have adopted a 15-year-old Mariupol boy.
The ICC stated that it considered keeping the arrest warrants confidential at first, but decided to make them public in the event that it prevented further crimes from being committed.
“Children cannot be treated as spoils of war, and they cannot be deported,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan told the BBC.
“To understand how to commit this type of crime, one does not need to be a lawyer; one simply needs to be a human being.”
The warrants drew immediate criticism from Kremlin officials, who dismissed them out of hand.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev compared the warrant to toilet paper, according to Dmitry Peskov, the court’s spokesperson.
“There’s no need to explain WHERE this paper should be used,” he tweeted, alongside a toilet paper emoji.
Russian opposition leaders, on the other hand, welcomed the announcement. Ivan Zhdanov, a close ally of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, called it a “symbolic step,” but one that was significant.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was grateful to Mr Khan and the criminal court for their decision to press charges against “state evil”.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said the decision was “historic for Ukraine”, while the country’s presidential chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, lauded the decision as “only the beginning”.
However, because Russia is not a signatory to the ICC, it is unlikely that Vladimir Putin or Maria Lvova-Belova will appear in The Hague.
The ICC relies on government cooperation to arrest people, and Russia is “obviously not going to cooperate in this regard,” according to Jonathan Leader Maynard, a lecturer in international politics at King’s College London.
Mr Khan, on the other hand, pointed out that no one expected Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader on trial for war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, to end up in The Hague.
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