The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for children’s rights in the office of the Russian president, over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The ICC accused Putin of being involved in the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
Russia has denied committing atrocities in Ukraine and has refused to recognize the ICC's jurisdiction. However, ICC President Piotr Hofmanski has emphasized that it is “completely irrelevant” that Russia has not ratified the Rome Statute. According to Hofmanski, 43 states had referred “the situation in Ukraine to the court, which means they have formally triggered our jurisdiction”. “The court has jurisdiction over crimes committed on anyone on the territory of Ukraine from November 2013 onwards regardless of nationality of the alleged perpetrators,” Hofmanski said.
The ICC move comes a day after a United Nations-backed inquiry accused Russia of committing wide-ranging war crimes in Ukraine, including the forced deportations of children in areas it controls.
The decision to issue arrest warrants for a sitting head of state is unprecedented and has raised questions about how other countries will deal with Putin. While many welcomed the announcement, others raised concerns about whether this would be a problem for diplomacy going forward.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin hailed the ICC’s decision as a “historic decision for Ukraine and the entire system of international law”. He added, “The world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable.”
The ICC has no police force of its own to enforce warrants, and it remains unclear how the court will proceed with the warrants. However, the ICC's decision to issue arrest warrants for Putin and other Russian officials marks a significant development in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the efforts to hold those responsible for war crimes accountable.