The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on Friday (17 March) against Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of being responsible for war crimes committed in Ukraine.
Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during its one-year invasion of its neighbour.
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 the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
The United Nations have said there are credible accusations that Moscow’s forces have removed children from Ukraine to Russia for adoption as part of larger-scale forced relocations and deportations.
The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Russian foreign ministry spokesperson has said the arrest warrants are meaningless.
“The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” Maria Zakharova said on Thursday, when word of the warrants being issued emerged.
That is because despite the warrants, the ICC has no powers to arrest suspects, and can only exercise jurisdiction within countries who are signed up to the agreement that set up the court.
Russia is not a signatory to that agreement – so it is unlikely either will be extradited.
However, the arrest warrant can seriously limit the Russian president’s ability to travel abroad. Recently Russia didn’t exclude Putin attending the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, on 9-10 September.
Pundits have warned that indicting Putin for war crimes may also hamper possible peace talks in which he would need to represent his country.
Earlier this week Reuters reported that the court was expected to issue warrants.
Separately the court issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, on the same charges.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan opened an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine a year ago. He highlighted during four trips to Ukraine that he was looking at alleged crimes against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure.
(Edited by Georgi Gotev)