ICC issues war crime arrest warrant for Putin

STORY: The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on Friday against Russian President Vladimir Putin, an exceedingly rare step for the world body, accusing the Russian leader of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.

ICC President Piotr Hofmanski:

HOFMANSKI: "This is an important moment in the process of justice before the ICC. The judges have reviewed the information and evidence submitted by the (ICC) prosecutor (Karim Khan) and determined that there are credible allegations against these persons for the alleged crimes. The ICC is doing its part of work. As a court of law, the judges issued arrest warrants. The execution depends on international cooperation."

Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during its one-year invasion of its neighbor, and branded the court’s decision as "null and void" with respect to Russia.

Ukraine applauded the decision by the ICC, with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeting quote:

"Wheels of Justice are turning: I applaud the ICC decision to issue arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova over forcible transfer of Ukrainian children,"

Ukraine has said more than 16,000 children have been illegally transferred to Russia or Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine.

A U.S.-backed report by Yale University researchers last month said Russia has held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children at sites in Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the ICC, but Kyiv granted it jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed on its territory.

Putin is only the third world leader to be charged in the history of the ICC, joining former Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi and Sudan's Omar al-Bashir.

Friday's warrant requires any of the court's 123 member states to arrest Putin and transfer him to the Hague for trial, if he sets foot in their territory.

But the ICC has no police force of its own.

"One thing that we should not forget is the fact that no immediate arrest is going to happen.

Iva Yukusic is an historian at Utrecht University

"Putin is not stupid. He's not going to travel abroad to a country where he might be arrested. So in some ways, of course it is historical…”

"I think it's possibly more likely that it will make him cling to power even more, even though nothing seems to have suggested that he intended to let go of power, right?...I think it's unlikely that there's going to be a significant regime change anytime soon.”

Some in Moscow laughed off the accusation. This resident scoffed, "Putin! Nobody will arrest him."

And in war-weary Kyiv, locals were similarly cynical.

JOEL (SURNAME UNKNOWN): "Sure it is good but in practice, no one will arrest him, right? Unfortunately. I think that only if he dies, everyone will breath a sigh of relief."

Asked if Putin now feared traveling to countries that recognized the ICC, a Kremlin spokesperson said, "I have nothing to add on this subject. That's all we want to say."