An arrest warrant has been issued for Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes following a “dramatic move” by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
But could the Russian president be arrested and put on trial? Sky News explains.
What are the charges?
In a statement, the court issued the warrant for Mr Putin’s arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
It also issued a warrant for the arrest for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, on similar allegations.
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The bold legal move will obligate the Court’s 123 member states to arrest the Russian president and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory.
Moscow has denied allegations of war crimes since it invaded Ukraine in February last year.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “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.”
Could Putin be arrested and put on trial?
Legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg told Sky News the arrest warrant was a “dramatic move” by the ICC prosecutor.
But he said Mr Putin is “not going to stand trial unless he is arrested – and he’s not going to be arrested while he remains running Russia”.
The same applies to Ms Lvova-Belova, he added.
Mr Rozenberg said that since the ICC has no police force of its own, it relies on states to cooperate with it.
He added: “As things stand, nothing very much is going to happen in the short term.
“Nevertheless, it does show that there is the possibility of criminal charges – something that Putin would have been well aware of ever since he started this.”
He continued: “This is the beginning of what many people hope will lead to international criminal justice.
“But clearly, so long as he remains in charge and remains in Moscow, nothing very much is going to happen.”
Dr Chile Eboe-Osuji, President of the International Criminal Court between 2018 and 2021, told Sky News that the arrest warrant is “very significant indeed” as it shows “no one is above the international law”.
Asked whether this is a meaningless gesture, he said that every significant person in modern times who was targeted by the court ended up facing justice.
“There is no basis for me to think that this will be a different story,” he said.
He also said that he is sure this will end with the Russian leader being brought to justice, adding it “looks like Mr Putin will have to learn that this is reality – it is no longer fiction”.
What could it mean for diplomacy?
The arrest warrant risks obstructing any off-ramp Mr Putin could use to end the war, says military analyst Sean Bell.
He said it was hard to see how Mr Putin would come to the negotiating table if at the end of it he was going to face trial.
“Anything that further isolates Putin’s position has a risk – it risks him doubling down and focusing his determination to continue this conflict,” he said.
“It doesn’t seem to me that this is going to help bring the war to an end anytime soon.”
Sky News’ international affairs editor Dominic Waghorn says the warrant makes hopes that a diplomatic solution can be negotiated far more problematic.
On whether the ICC charges could result in Mr Putin being further isolated, along with the removal of Russia from the Security Council, Mr Rozenberg said it is a “matter for the United Nations”.
He explained: “The International Criminal Court is not directly part of the United Nations. It is a separate body set up by a number of states.
“But on the other hand, it has close links with the United Nations because the United Nations can refer cases to the International Criminal Court. It’s a matter for the United Nations.”
Why these charges?
Mr Rozenberg points out that unlawful deportation is a relatively minor charge compared with what Mr Putin has been responsible for throughout the war on Ukraine.
But he said it was “the most practical charge”.
He told Sky News: “All we know is that they [ICC] have chosen to bring this particular charge to public attention at the moment.
He said this was a practical charge in which the prosecutor has enough evidence to show the court, and authorise an arrest warrant.
Mr Rozenberg said while the goal is to get Mr Putin behind bars, it is not going to happen right now, “but who knows what’s going to happen”.
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What is the ICC?
The court is an intergovernmental organisation and international tribunal seated in The Hague, Netherlands, which investigates and tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community.
Such offences include genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.
The ICC, which began operations in July 2002, says it seeks to complement and not replace national courts.
It is governed by an international treaty called the Rome Statute and is the world’s first permanent international criminal court.
Some 123 states are members of the court – but this does not include countries including India, Indonesia, China and the US, which formally withdrew its signature from the Rome Statute in 2002.