- By Kathryn Armstrong, Antoinette Radford and Frank Gardner, BBC Security Correspondent
- BBC News
US President Joe Biden has welcomed the International Criminal Court’s issuance of an arrest warrant for his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
The ICC has charged President Putin with committing war crimes in Ukraine – something President Biden said the Russian leader had “clearly” done.
The allegations relate to the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia since the 2022 invasion of Moscow.
Moscow denied the allegations and denounced the warrants as “scandalous”.
This decision is highly unlikely to achieve much, as the ICC does not have the power to arrest suspects without the cooperation of a country’s government.
Russia is not an ICC member country, which means the tribunal, located in The Hague, has no authority there.
However, it could affect Mr Putin in other ways, such as being unable to travel abroad. He could now be arrested if he sets foot in any of the Court’s 123 member states.
Mr Putin is only the third president to receive an arrest warrant from the ICC.
President Biden said that while the court also has no influence in the United States, issuing the warrant “makes a very strong point.”
“He clearly committed war crimes,” he told reporters.
In a statement on Friday, the ICC said it had reasonable grounds to believe Mr Putin directly committed the criminal acts and was working with others. He also accused him of failing to use his presidential powers to prevent the deportation of children.
The Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, is also wanted by the ICC for the same crimes.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said the warrants were “based on forensic evidence, careful examination and what was said by these two people”.
The court initially considered keeping the arrest warrants secret, but decided to make them public in an attempt to prevent further crimes from being committed.
“Children cannot be treated as spoils of war, they cannot be deported,” Mr Khan told the BBC.
“This type of crime doesn’t need to be a lawyer, you need to be a human being to know how serious it is.”
Mr Khan also stressed 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 think you can commit a crime during the day and sleep well at night should perhaps look at history,” Mr Khan said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said all court rulings were “null and void” and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev compared the warrant to toilet paper.
Russian opposition activists welcomed the announcement. Ivan Zhdanov, a close ally of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, tweeted that it was a “symbolic step” but an important one.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his thanks to Mr Khan and the ICC for their decision to press charges against “state evil”.