The International Criminal Court on Friday announced it had issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes in Ukraine.
The ICC pointed to Putin’s alleged involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children. In a statement the ICC said Putin is “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of [children] and that of unlawful transfer of [children] from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
Along with Putin, the ICC issued an arrest warrant on similar allegations for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation.
The ICC’s actions were immediately dismissed by the Kremlin while at the same time they were welcomed by Ukraine as a major breakthrough.
The ICC is located at the United Nations. It tried Slobodan Milosovic in 2002 for crimes against Albanian Serbs—but he died in his cell before his four-year trial came to a close. But Liberian President Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 2012 for atrocities committed in the 1990s in Sierra Leone.
While the ICC has indicted world leaders before, this is the first time an arrest warrant was issued for the leader of a country that’s one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
Another permanent Security Council nation’s leader, President Xi Jinping of China, is scheduled to travel to Russia to meet with Putin on Monday.
The arrest warrant against Putin comes one day after the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council accused Russia of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity in Ukraine, including systematic torture and killing in occupied regions.
The ICC said its pre-trial chamber had found “reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect [Putin and Lvova-Belova] 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.”
In its Friday statement the ICC said, “[T]here 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.”