(Thompson Reuters) — The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on Friday against Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of being responsible for war crimes committed in Ukraine.
Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations of atrocities during its one-year invasion of its neighbour. A spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry said the arrest warrant against Putin had “no significance whatsoever.”
“The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel. “Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it.”
The ICC issued the warrant 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.
Separately the court issued warrants for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, on the same charges.
The court’s president, Piotr Hofmanski, said in a video statement that while the ICC’s judges have issued the warrants, it will be up to the international community to enforce them. The court has no police force of its own to enforce warrants.
“The ICC is doing its part of work as a court of law. The judges issued arrest warrants. The execution depends on international co-operation.”
A possible trial of any Russians at the ICC remains a long way off, as Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and does not extradite its nationals.
Ukraine also is not a member of the court, but it has granted the ICC jurisdiction over its territory and ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has visited four times since opening an investigation a year ago.
Senior Ukrainian officials applauded the ICC decision, with the country’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin hailing it as “historic for Ukraine and the entire international law system.”
Andriy Yermak, chief of the presidential staff, said that issuing the warrant was “only the beginning.”
The ICC said that its pre-trial chamber found there were “reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children.”
The court statement said that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the child abductions “for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others (and) for his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.”
On Thursday, a UN-backed inquiry cited Russian attacks against civilians in Ukraine, including systematic torture and killing in occupied regions, among potential issues that amount to war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
The sweeping investigation also found crimes committed against Ukrainians on Russian territory, including deported Ukrainian children who were prevented from reuniting with their families, a “filtration” system aimed at singling out Ukrainians for detention, and torture and inhumane detention conditions.
News of the arrest warrant comes ahead of a planned state visit to Moscow next week by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which is likely to cement much closer ties between Russia and China just as relations between Moscow and the West hit new lows.
Russia has been placed under unprecedented Western sanctions since it sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
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