- By Catherine Armstrong, Antoinette Radford and Frank Gardner, BBC Security Correspondent
- BBC News
US President Joe Biden welcomed the issuance of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
The International Criminal Court has charged President Putin with war crimes in Ukraine — something President Biden said the Russian president “clearly” did.
The allegations focus on the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia since the invasion of Moscow in 2022.
Moscow denied the allegations and denounced the notes as “outrageous”.
It is unlikely that much will come of the move, as the ICC does not have powers to arrest suspects without the cooperation of a country’s government.
Russia is not a member state of the ICC, which means that the court, which is in The Hague, has no jurisdiction there.
However, this could affect Putin in other ways, such as his inability to travel internationally. He can now be arrested if he sets foot in any of the court’s 123 member states.
Mr. Putin is only the third president to have an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.
President Biden said that while the court had no influence in the United States, the issuance of the warrant “is a very strong point.”
“It is clear that he committed war crimes,” he told reporters.
The ICC said in a statement on Friday that it has reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin committed the criminal acts directly, as well as working with others. It also accused him of failing to use his presidential powers to prevent the children from being deported.
Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova Belova, is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for the same crimes.
The ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, said the arrest warrants were “based on the forensic evidence, the scrutiny and what these two individuals said”.
The court initially considered keeping the arrest warrants secret, but decided to make them public to try to stop further crimes from being committed.
“Children cannot be treated as spoils of war, they cannot be deported,” Khan told the BBC.
“This kind of crime does not need a lawyer, one needs to be a human being to know how terrible it is.”
Mr. Khan also noted that no one believed that Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader who was tried for war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, would end up in The Hague to face justice.
“Those who feel that you can commit a crime in the daytime, and sleep well at night, maybe they should look at history,” Khan said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said none of the court’s decisions were “null and void”, likening former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to toilet paper.
Russian opposition activists welcomed this announcement. Ivan Zhdanov, a close ally of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, wrote on Twitter that this was a “symbolic step” but an important one.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Mr. Khan and the International Criminal Court for their decision to bring charges against “state evil”.
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