The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, accusing him of war crimes for illegally transporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.

The ICC called for Putin's arrest on charges of illegally detaining children and transporting them unlawfully from Ukrainian territory to the Russian Federation since February 24, 2022.

In a statement released on Friday, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said, "Hundreds of Ukrainian children have been taken from orphanages and child care centers to Russia. Many of these children are believed to have been made into foster children in the Russian Federation."

The alleged actions "demonstrate an intent to permanently remove these children from their country. At the time of these expulsions, Ukrainian children were protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention."

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

A report by Yale University researchers, backed by the United States, released last month revealed that Russia has detained at least 6,000 Ukrainian children in at least 43 camps and other facilities as part of a "large-scale systematic network."

Russia has not hidden a program that has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, but has claimed that it is a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in conflict areas.

The ICC's highest leaders opened an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Ukraine a year ago. In four visits to Ukraine, he emphasized that he was looking into allegations of crimes against children and attacks targeting civilian infrastructure.

This bold legal move will force the 123 member countries of the court to arrest Putin and extradite him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory.

Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations that its forces have carried out brutal acts in the year-long invasion of its neighbor, and the Kremlin has called the court's ruling "invalid."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia sees the questions raised by the ICC as "excessive and unacceptable."

Neither Russia nor Ukraine is a member of the ICC, although Kiev has granted the agency jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed on its territory. The court has no police force of its own and relies on member countries to carry out arrests.

Stephen Rapp, the former US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said the arrest warrant was a "game-changer" for the ICC and showed the court was willing to take on powerful actors.

"The ICC is taking its role seriously and is willing to take on a powerful state actor. It's a game-changer," Rapp said.

The arrest warrant is likely to increase tensions between Russia and the West, which has already imposed economic sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.


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