The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, accusing the Russian leader of illegally deporting hundreds of children out of Ukraine and into Russia.
The deportation of Ukrainian children, which has occurred on a larger scale than the ICC’s arrest warrant acknowledges, was classified as a war crime by the international court.
Moscow denies the accusations, and has done so since Russian forces began moving Ukrainian children into holding facilities and later deporting them to Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed that the accusation is untrue and called the decision by the court “outrageous and unacceptable.”
In a statement, the ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan said that “hundreds of Ukrainian children have been taken from orphanages and children’s homes to Russia.”
“Many of these children, we allege, have since been given up for adoption in the Russian Federation,” Khan continued, adding that the alleged acts “demonstrate an intention to permanently remove these children from their own country.”
What the Putin Arrest Warrant Means
The arrest warrant obligates all 123 states that have signed and ratified the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, to arrest the Russian president and extradite him to The Hague where he would, theoretically, face trial.
However, Putin may only be arrested if he steps foot in a country that signed the statute.
Putin, therefore, is now unlikely to step foot on the soil of any country that has signed the Rome Statute.
Fortunately for the Russian president, most of Russia’s remaining allies are not signatories of the Rome Statute, including Belarus, Iran, North Korea, China, and Syria. India, now one of Russia’s biggest oil purchasers, is also not a signatory of the statute – meaning Putin can continue to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Indian or Russian soil.
Notably, however, the Indian prime minister has expressed his opposition to the war in Ukraine on several occasions despite remaining largely friendly to Russia.
Under What Circumstances Might Putin Be Arrested?
Putin may be arrested if he steps foot in a country that is a signatory to the Rome Statute, and Russia does have at least one ally that fits the bill: Serbia.
That relationship has become strained, however, since it emerged that Russia’s private mercenary group Wagner used social media pages and Russian websites to recruit Serbian citizens to join the war in Ukraine.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic criticized the Serbian-language advertisements appearing online and denied allegations that Wagner has any presence in Serbia whatsoever.
Vucic also told TV Prva in February that it would ultimately be difficult for his country to decide between backing Ukraine or Russia, describing how Serbia is stuck “between the hammer and the anvil.”
“It is not clear anymore who is winning in Ukraine, but it will be difficult for us whoever wins,” Vucic said.
Should Putin ever set foot in Serbia, however, Vucic will effectively be forced to choose a side.
Tajikistan, also a signatory of the Rome Statute, has welcomed the Russian president in recent months.
In June, the Russian president made a trip to Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – though, after this week’s news from the ICC, he’s unlikely to be re-entering the country any time soon.
The likelihood of the ICC arrest warrant ever resulting in an arrest is slim. Putin knows how to avoid it, and he will.
ICC President Piotr Hofmanski admitted as much when the court’s judges chose to issue the warrants, insisting that an arrest can only occur with the support and efforts of the international community.
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Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.