On Friday, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin, accusing the Russian president of war crimes in abducting children from Ukraine and deporting them to Russia.
Russia’s government has denied accusations that it has committed such atrocities during its one-year invasion and occupation of Ukraine that has left, according to the U.N., at least 9,000 civilians dead and over 15,000 wounded.
The ICC also issued a warrant for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Putin’s commissioner for children’s rights, on similar allegations.
Enforcement, however, is another thing. The ICC has no police force to carry out such warrants, and defers to the international community to do so.
“The ICC is doing its part of work as a court of law,” said court president Pitor Hofmanski. “The judges issued arrest warrants. The execution depends on international cooperation.”
Meanwhile, Russia is not taking the court’s threat seriously. “The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakhraova on Telegram.
Ukraine also technically does not adhere to the ICC. But since 2015,* it has granted the court ongoing jurisdiction over crimes occurring in the region. There are 123 state party members of the statute overseeing the ICC; the United States is the only North American country not part of the cooperative.
The warrant comes before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled visit to Moscow next week. Xi’s visit will mark his first visit to Russia since the invasion began, and the first foreign trip he makes since securing his third term as president last week.
While Xi ostensibly plans to visit as a neutral arbiter between Russia and Ukraine, his visit marks a deepening tie between China and Russia. Xi has reportedly spoken to Putin numerous times since Russia began its invasion, but has not even shared a single phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. China is also not among the states who adhere to the ICC.
* This post originally misstated the length of ICC jurisdiction in Ukraine.