The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges of war crimes in Ukraine, Reuters reports.
The warrant accuses Putin of illegally deporting children from Ukraine, which the Kremlin has denied.
This makes Putin the third serving president to be issued an ICC arrest warrant, following Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
Although it is unlikely that Putin will face trial any time soon, the warrant means that he could be arrested and sent to The Hague if he travels to any ICC member states.
The ICC issued the warrant on suspicion of alleged unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from Ukraine to Russia.
The court also issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, on the same charges.
Russia has not hidden the fact that it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, but it presents it as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone, Reuters notes.
Russian media asserts that thousands of residents of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye, and Kherson, four regions that voted to join Russia last September, have been “evacuated to the interior of Russia” due to the “deliberate shelling of civilians by Ukrainian forces, often using NATO-supplied weapons.”
However, the ICC sees it as a war crime.
In response to the news, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also stated that Russia found the questions raised by the ICC “outrageous and unacceptable,” and any decisions of the court were “null and void” with respect to Russia.
“We consider the very premise outrageous and unacceptable,” the spokesman said. “Russia, like many other states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court. Accordingly, any of its pronouncements are null and void to the Russian Federation from the legal standpoint.”
The Russian News Agency, TASS, notes that the ICC was created by the 1998 Rome Statute and is not part of the U.N., but is accountable to the countries that have ratified the document.
“Non-signatories include Russia (signed but not ratified), the United States (signed but later withdrew its signature), and China (did not sign the statute),” the outlet continues. “In 2016, Putin signed an order stating that Russia would not become a party to the ICC.”