The international criminal court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and his children’s rights commissioner Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova.
The court said in a statement that Mr Putin “is 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.”
It also issued a warrant on Friday for the arrest of Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, on similar allegations.
The ICC said that its pre-trial chamber found there were “reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children.”
According to reports ICC judges considered issuing secret warrants but decided that making them public could “contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes”.
Moscow have already stated that they do not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC.
US President Joe Biden has joined Britain in welcoming the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes in Ukraine.
Mr Biden said Mr Putin had “clearly committed war crimes” and the warrant, although not recognised in the US, was “justified” and made “a very strong point”.
His remarks came after UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said it was essential that those at the top of the regime in Moscow were held to account for the atrocities which have taken place since the invasion a year ago.
However, Mr Cleverly said in a statement posted on social media: “Those responsible for horrific war crimes in Ukraine must be brought to justice.
“We welcome the step taken by the independent ICC to hold those at the top of the Russian regime, including Vladimir Putin, to account.
“Work must continue to investigate the atrocities committed.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, also backed the move.
“Today’s announcement sends an important message: there will no hiding place for Putin and his cronies and the world is determined to make them pay for what they have done,” he said.
“These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. One day Putin will face justice: until then, the focus of all who believe in Ukraine’s liberty and freedom must continue to be on ensuring her victory.”
While there is no immediate prospect of Mr Putin facing arrest, legal experts have pointed to the examples of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and Liberia’s president Charles Taylor as international leaders who wound up in the dock in The Hague.
Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, told the BBC: “It is, I suspect, going to be a long journey but people said that about Yugoslavia and Rwanda and many of those people responsible for the carnage ended up in the dock of a court.
“In the short term it will be very hard for President Putin to move around the world because there are so many countries who are parties to the ICC who will be duty bound to arrest him.”