The International Criminal Court has taken a bold step by issuing an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The charges relate to war crimes committed during the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.
The alleged crimes were committed during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022. Despite Moscow’s denial of the allegations and condemnation of the warrants as “outrageous,” the ICC’s limited jurisdiction and lack of power to arrest suspects outside of its member countries make it unlikely that any significant action will result from the move. Notably, Russia is not a member of the ICC.
if the ICC were to issue an arrest warrant for President Putin, it could have significant diplomatic implications. Many countries have extradition agreements with the ICC and could be compelled to arrest and hand over the president if he were to travel to their territory.
This could severely limit his ability to conduct international diplomacy and attend important meetings and events. It could also damage Russia’s reputation on the global stage and lead to further isolation from the international community.
In September of last year, Ms. Lvova-Belova lodged a complaint that some children who were relocated from the city of Mariupol had spoken ill of the Russian President, made derogatory remarks, and sang the Ukrainian national anthem.
She also asserted that she had adopted a 15-year-old boy from Mariupol. The International Criminal Court (ICC) initially considered keeping the arrest warrants confidential, but ultimately decided to make them public in order to prevent further crimes from being committed.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan emphasized that children cannot be treated as war spoils and deported. He further stated that one need not be a legal expert to recognize the severity of such crimes, but rather, a human being.
The warrants were met with immediate reactions, with Kremlin officials swiftly dismissing them.
Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declared that any decisions made by the court were invalid, while former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev likened the warrant to toilet paper, stating that there was no need to explain where it should be used.
In contrast, Russian opposition leaders welcomed the announcement, with Ivan Zhdanov, a close associate of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, describing it as a significant and symbolic step.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin hailed the decision as a “historic moment” for Ukraine, while the country’s presidential chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, viewed it as “just the beginning”.
However, since Russia is not a signatory to the ICC, the likelihood of Vladimir Putin or Maria Lvova-Belova facing trial in The Hague is slim.
The ICC depends on the cooperation of governments to apprehend individuals, and Russia is unlikely to comply with such requests, according to Jonathan Leader Maynard, a lecturer in international politics at King’s College London, who spoke to the BBC.
Mr Khan highlighted that Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader who was tried for war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, was not expected to end up in The Hague. He emphasised that those who believe they can commit crimes and sleep soundly at night should consider history.
However, this situation poses a legal problem for Mr Putin. Despite being the leader of a G20 state and preparing to meet with China’s Xi Jinping, he is now a wanted man, which will inevitably limit the countries he can visit.
The Kremlin is also facing embarrassment as it has always denied allegations of Russian war crimes, and the fact that the ICC does not believe its denials is a significant blow to its credibility.