The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of committing war crimes in Ukraine.
The court in The Hague said on Friday that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears responsibility for the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
The ICC says judges have also issued an arrest warrant for Russia's Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova. She faces the same charges.
ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said, "It is forbidden by international law for occupied powers to transfer civilians from the territory they live in."
He added that children enjoy special protection under the Geneva Convention.
Hofmanski appealed for support, saying that the execution of the arrest warrants "depends on international cooperation."
The head of Ukraine's Presidential Office said on social media that this is "just the beginning."
Andriy Yermak wrote, "More than 16,000 cases of forced deportation of children have been recorded in the proceedings being investigated in Ukraine." He added, "The real numbers may be many times higher."
Ukraine's Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin tweeted that if Putin leaves Russia, "he would be arrested and surrendered" to the ICC.
Kostin wrote, "World leaders will think twice before shaking his hand or sitting with Putin at the negotiating table." He expressed gratitude to the ICC for making a "historic decision."
In Russia, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the ICC's decision "outrageous and unacceptable." Peskov told Russian media that "any decisions of this kind are null and void for Russia in terms of law."
Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova echoed the view in her social media post. She wrote that Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute that set up the ICC and bears no obligations under it.
Experts say chances of Putin being arrested are extremely low. Although 123 countries and territories are signatories to the Rome Statute, Russia, China and the United States do not recognize the court's jurisdiction.