Judges from the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued on Friday the court's first arrest warrants related to the war in Ukraine, for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's commissioner for children's rights.
The two bear individual responsibility for the war crimes of "unlawful deportation" and "unlawful transfer" of children from occupied areas of Ukraine after Russia invaded the country last year, the judges alleged.
Russia, like the United States, does not accept the ICC's jurisdiction. But the warrants carry symbolic weight and could make it difficult for those named to travel to countries that cooperate with the court.
Putin issued a decree last May to make it easy for Russians to adopt Ukrainian children, and Ukrainian officials said in November that at least 10,000 Ukrainian children were reported to have been deported by Russia without their parents. Lvova-Belova, who reports to Putin directly and openly advocates stripping children of their Ukrainian identities, has been the official face of this effort.
The court's move comes more than a year after its top prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced the opening of a probe into possible violations of international humanitarian law committed during the conflict in Ukraine. While Kyiv is not a party to the court, it had previously accepted the court's jurisdiction over its territory, and more than three dozen countries referred alleged crimes there to the court for investigation. Khan has traveled to Ukraine on multiple occasions as part of that probe.
International law experts say it's unlikely, barring major political change in Russia, for Putin to end up in front of the court.
"The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view," Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, said on Telegram on Friday. "Russia does not cooperate with this body, and possible 'recipes' for arrest coming from the International Court will be legally null and void for us."
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The Washington Post's Mary Ilyushina and Robyn Dixon contributed to this report.