The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, accusing him of being responsible for the war crime of illegal deportation of children from Ukraine. Moscow has consistently denied any accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during the one-year invasion of its neighbor.
Russia's Response to ICC Warrant
Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, responded to the ICC arrest warrants, stating that they hold no legal significance for the country. She also mentioned that Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty underpinning the world's permanent war crimes tribunal.
Specifics of the ICC Warrant
In its first warrant for Ukraine, the ICC called for Putin's arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from Ukraine to the Russian Federation. The Kremlin has yet to respond to a request for comment.
ICC Jurisdiction in Ukraine
Neither Russia nor Ukraine is a member of the ICC, but Kyiv granted it jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed on its territory. The tribunal, with 123 member states, has no police force and relies on member countries to detain and transfer suspects to The Hague for trial.
Travel Risks for Putin
While it is unlikely that Putin will face trial soon, the warrant means he could be arrested and sent to The Hague if traveling to any ICC member states. Putin is the third serving president to be the target of an ICC arrest warrant, following Sudan's Omar al-Bashir and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.
Additional ICC Warrants
The ICC also issued a warrant on Friday for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's Commissioner for Children's Rights, on the same charges. Ukraine has reported that over 16,000 children have been illegally transferred to Russia or Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine.
Yale University Report on Ukrainian Children
A U.S.-backed report by Yale University researchers last month revealed that Russia had held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children at sites in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula Moscow forcibly annexed in 2014. The report identified 43 camps and other facilities where Ukrainian children have been held as part of Moscow's "large-scale systematic network" since its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Russia's Humanitarian Claims
Russia has not concealed its program of bringing thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia. Still, it presents it as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone.
ICC Prosecutor's Investigation
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan opened an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Ukraine a year ago. He emphasized during four trips to Ukraine that he was examining alleged crimes against children and targeting civilian infrastructure. According to the ICC statement, Putin is accused of the war crime of unlawful deportation from the occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.