- The move sparked outrage in the Kremlin.
- Mr. Putin is only the third sitting president to have an arrest warrant issued by the ICC.
- It is unlikely that Mr. Putin will face trial any time soon.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, charging him with the war crime of illegally deporting children from Ukraine, sparking outrage in the Kremlin.
Mr. Putin is only the third sitting president to have an arrest warrant issued by the ICC, after Omar al-Bashir in Sudan and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
His troops have been accused of multiple abuses during Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, including by a UN-authorized investigative body that this week said soldiers forced children to watch their loved ones being raped.
Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations of atrocities by its forces during what it calls a special military operation.
The ICC issued a warrant on suspicion of illegal deportation of children and illegal movement of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
Russia does not hide the program under which it brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, but presents it as a humanitarian action to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone.
What is happening now?
While it is unlikely that Mr. Putin will face trial any time soon, the warrant means he could be arrested and sent to The Hague if he travels to any of the ICC’s member states.
“It makes Putin a pariah. If he travels, he risks being arrested. It will never go away. Russia cannot get sanctions relief without complying with warrants,” said Stephen Rapp, US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes under former President Barack. Obama
The legal move provoked a strong reaction in Moscow.
“Yankees, hands off Putin!” Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of parliament, a close associate of the president, wrote on Telegram, saying the move was evidence of Western “hysteria.”
“We regard any attacks against the President of the Russian Federation as aggression against our country,” he said.
Zelensky welcomes ICC decision and accuses Putin of deporting children
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the ICC decision historic and accused Mr. Putin of deporting thousands of Ukrainian children.
“This is a historic decision that will lead to historic responsibility,” he said in his late-night video message.
He said the actual number of children deported could be “much more” than 16,000 and said their deportation represented a policy of “state evil that starts precisely with the highest official of this state”.
He added: “It would be impossible to carry out such a criminal operation without the consent of the person at the helm of a terrorist state.”
Residents of the Russian capital expressed distrust of the news.
“Putin! Nobody will arrest him. Rather, he will arrest everyone,” a man who identified himself only as 20-year-old Daniil told Reuters. “We will protect him, the people of Russia,” Maxim said.
The woman, who identified herself as Ksenia, said it would be “a pity” if Mr. Putin were arrested, but she didn’t think it was possible.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia considers the very issues raised by the ICC “outrageous and unacceptable” and that any court decisions are “invalid” against Russia.
The court also issued a warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Ombudsman for Children’s Rights in Russia, on the same charges.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan launched an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine a year ago.
During trips to Ukraine, he stressed that he was looking into alleged crimes against children and attacks on civilian infrastructure.