The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin is wanted in connection with alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.
He has not formally been charged and his arrest is unlikely, but the decision has been welcomed by human rights organisations as sending a “clear message”.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) can investigate, prosecute and convict people accused of breaking international laws. This includes ‘war crimes’ – conduct in a war that violates international conventions, for example killing or mistreating civilians.
The ICC has made successful convictions before, but it does not have its own police force, so it relies on the co-operation of countries that recognise its authority. There are 123 countries who do so, including Australia, but not including Russia, the U.S., or China.
The war in Ukraine
Russian officials and soldiers have faced many accusations of war crimes since Russia invaded Ukraine.
A recent report by the UN Human Rights Council found Russia had committed “a wide range” of war crimes including killings, unlawful arrest, torture, rape, and the forced deportation of children.
It also found “a small number” of violations by Ukrainian forces including two war crimes.
The ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin relates to the alleged deportation of children from occupied areas of Ukraine into Russia.
The ICC says there are “reasonable grounds to believe” Putin could be held responsible either for directly ordering the deportations or for failing to exercise control over those who carried them out.
Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, has also been issued with a warrant.
The Russian Government has dismissed the arrest warrants as “outrageous”.
Several world leaders have previously stated they believe Russia has committed war crimes, including Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and U.S. President Joe Biden, who repeated this view in response to the arrest warrant.
International human rights organisation Human Rights Watch said the warrants sent “a clear message [that] serious crimes against civilians may lead to a prison cell”.
What it means
Putin will almost certainly not be arrested while he remains in Russia.
However, the warrant effectively prevents him from visiting any of the 123 countries who recognise the ICC’s authority, as these countries would be obliged to arrest him if he did visit.
Where is Putin now?
Putin has left Russia only a handful of times since the invasion of Ukraine began.
He recently visited the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which was captured by Russian forces.
Putin is expected to host Chinese President Xi Jinping in Russia this week, Xi’s first visit since the invasion.