The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The court alleges he is responsible for war crimes, including the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.
It says the crimes were committed in Ukraine at least from 24 February 2022 – when Russia launched its full-scale invasion.
Moscow has denied allegations of war crimes during the invasion.
The ICC has charged Mr Putin with being involved in the deportation of children, and says it has reasonable grounds to believe he committed the acts directly, as well as working with others.
The court also said the Russian leader failed to exercise his rights to stop others who deported children.
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 its agreement.
Russia is not a signatory – so it is unlikely either will be extradited, however it could affect them in other ways, such as being unable to travel.
That message was reiterated by Ms Zakharova who said “Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it.”
Russian opposition leaders welcomed the announcement, with jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s close ally Ivan Zhdanov tweeting “wow!”.
“An arrest warrant for Putin! Yes, a symbolic step. But how import it is!” Mr Zhdanov wrote.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said the decision was “historic for Ukraine and the entire international law system”, while Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak lauded the decision as “only the beginning”.
Jonathan Leader Maynard, a lecturer in international politics at King’s College London said the decision to charge Mr Putin did not surprise him.
He told the BBC the court has had an open investigation into possible war crimes since March 2022 and the strength of the evidence meant it was “hard to see how the ICC could ultimately avoid issuing arrest warrants.”
Mr Maynard similarly reiterated that Putin was unlikely to be too bothered by the charges, as the ICC “relies on cooperation from governments to actually arrest people, and the Russian government is obviously not going to cooperate in this respect”.
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