Russian President Vladimir Putin faces arrest if he sets foot into any of the 123 member countries of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The court has issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest due to the illegal deportation of at least 100 Ukrainian children. Kyiv claims that since the start of the full-scale invasion, over 16,000 children have been taken from Ukraine, often ending up being forcibly adopted by families in Russia.
"The crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian-occupied territory at least from 24 February 2022. There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes," the ICC stated.
Moscow denies the allegations and says the programme is part of humanitarian aid to house Ukrainian children orphaned or abandoned during the war. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the warrant “outrageous and unacceptable”.
Russia has repeatedly denied war crimes in Ukraine, despite substantial evidence to the contrary. The ICC has been conducting an ongoing investigation into Russia’s crimes since last year, whilst the UN Human Rights Council also launched an investigation into Russian human rights abuses in May 2022.
Following the massacre in Kyiv’s suburbs last spring, the UN Human Rights Council suspended Russia’s membership for “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights". A total of 93 countries voted in favour of Russia’s removal.
A Yale report, funded by the US, discovered 6,000 Ukrainian children were held in 43 camps in occupied Crimea. Adults are also being forcibly deported to Russia via filtration camps, with reports in July indicating that between 900,000 and 1.6mn Ukrainian citizens, including 260,000 children, had been forcibly relocated.
The Guardian reported the story of a teenager from Mariupol who was placed in a Russian orphanage before having his passport confiscated. He eventually managed to escape to Ukraine via an underground network of activists.
According to reports, deported Ukrainian children who end up in Russian homes or orphanages are being placed with Russian families. At least 400 have been adopted, an act that Kyiv labels as genocide and the forced transfer of one ethnic group to another.
Kyiv has hailed the ICC’s decision as a victory, although it is unlikely Putin will end up in The Hague anytime soon. However, the verdict will have consequences for the Russian leader.
"This makes Putin a pariah. If he travels he risks arrest. This never goes away. Russia cannot gain relief from sanctions without compliance with the warrants,” said Stephen Rapp, US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues.