The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, alleging his responsibility for war crimes committed in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion. The charges focus on the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia, and the court claims that Mr Putin committed the criminal acts directly and also worked with others. The court alleges that Mr. Putin failed to use his presidential powers to stop others who deported children, making him responsible for their unlawful deportation.

In response to the arrest warrant, Moscow has denied the allegations and labelled the warrant as “outrageous”. Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, is also wanted by the ICC for the same crimes. Ms. Lvova-Belova has openly spoken of efforts to indoctrinate Ukrainian children taken to Russia and has claimed to have adopted a 15-year-old boy from Mariupol herself.

The ICC has no powers to arrest suspects, and can only exercise jurisdiction within countries that are signed up to its agreement. Russia is not a signatory, and therefore it is unlikely either Mr. Putin or Ms. Lvova-Belova will be extradited. However, the arrest warrant could affect their ability to travel. Despite the warrant, a Russian foreign ministry spokesperson has said that the decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for their country, including from a legal point of view.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev compared the warrant to toilet paper and stated that there is “no need to explain WHERE this paper should be used.” Meanwhile, Russian opposition leaders welcomed the announcement, with jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s close ally Ivan Zhdanov tweeting “wow!”

The ICC initially considered keeping the arrest warrants secret but eventually decided to make them public, in case it stopped further crimes from being committed. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said the decision was “historic for Ukraine and the entire international law system”, while Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak lauded the decision as “only the beginning”.

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