The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on Friday against Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of being responsible for war crimes committed in Ukraine, but Moscow said the move was meaningless.
Russia has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during its one-year-old invasion of its neighbour.
The ICC issued the warrant for Putin’s arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
The court also issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, on the same charges.
In the first reaction to the news from Moscow, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel: “The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view.”
“Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Kremlin.
‘Only the beginning’
Senior Ukrainian officials applauded the ICC decision, with the country’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin hailing it as “historic for Ukraine and the entire international law system”.
Andriy Yermak, chief of the presidential staff, said that issuing the warrant was “only the beginning”.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan opened an investigation into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine a year ago. He highlighted during four trips to Ukraine that he was looking at alleged crimes against children and the targeting of civilian infrastructure.
The ICC move came a day after a UN-mandated investigative body accused Russia of committing wide-ranging war crimes in Ukraine, including wilful killings and torture, in some cases making children watch loved ones being raped and detaining others alongside dead bodies.
The news also came ahead of a planned state visit to Moscow next week by Chinese President Xi Jinping which is likely to cement much closer ties between Russia and China just as relations between Moscow and the West hit new lows.
Russia has been placed under unprecedented Western sanctions since he sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
Beijing and Moscow struck a “no limits” partnership shortly before the invasion and US and European leaders have said they are concerned Beijing may send arms to Russia.
China has denied any such plan, criticising Western weapon supplies to Ukraine, which will soon extend to fighter jets after Poland and Slovakia this week approved deliveries. The Kremlin said the jets would simply be destroyed.