The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes involving accusations that Russia has forcibly taken Ukrainian children.
The ICC also issued a warrant for Putin's commissioner for children's rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova.
The court said in a news release Friday the two are "allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation."
The move by the criminal court at the Hague marked a significant, rare step, requesting the arrest of a sitting world leader, analysts said.
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Russia is not a party to the court and officials said there's no significance to this arrest warrant.
"The very question itself is outrageous and unacceptable," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "Russia, as a number of other states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court, and therefore any of its decisions are for the Russian Federation from a legal point of view insignificant."
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin called the court's decision "historic."
Like the United States, Ukraine is also not a party to the ICC. But Kostin noted that the Ukrainian government has cooperated with the court on criminal investigations in its territory. He said his office handed more than 1,000 pages of documents over to the ICC regarding the alleged forcible deportation of children to Russia.
A report released last month by Yale University researchers and the U.S. State Department accused the Russian government of operating a systematic network of custody centers for thousands of Ukrainian children.
Russian officials have not denied the arrival of Ukrainian children in the country, but have previously characterized the children centers as part of a large humanitarian project for abandoned, war-traumatized orphans.
ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said the judges decided to make these warrants public to try to deter further crimes.
"It is forbidden by international law for occupying powers to transfer civilians from the territories where they live to other territories," he said. "Children enjoy special protection under the Geneva Convention."
Experts appeared surprised by the news.
"This is a stunning move by the court, which has moved right to the top of the Russian state," says David Bosco, author of Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics.
However, he cautions, "The arrest warrant won't have immediate implications because no trial can move forward without Putin being in custody and there's no chance of that happening in the near future."
Despite the difficulty of trying Putin, human rights advocates hailed the news as a major step.
"This is a big day for the many victims of crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since 2014," Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "With these arrest warrants, the ICC has made Putin a wanted man and taken its first step to end the impunity that has emboldened perpetrators in Russia's war against Ukraine for far too long."
Alex Leff and Michele Kelemen reported from Washington, D.C. Charles Maynes reported from Moscow.
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