The Hague: Russian President Vladimir Putin faced a rare legal challenge on Friday as the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him on war crimes charges over the deportation of Ukrainian children.

The Hague-based court also issued a warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights, on similar charges.

The ICC said its judges found there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect Putin’s criminal responsibility, and granted a request from prosecutor Karim Khan.

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The application focused on crimes against children, who are “the most vulnerable part of our society,” said Khan.

The news comes hours after other news with the potential to significantly impact Russia’s war on Ukraine, including a Moscow visit from Chinese leader Xi Jinping and more fighter jets for Kyiv’s forces.

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Russia is not a party to the ICC so it was unclear if or how Putin could ever end up in the dock.

However, Khan said the arrest warrants were “based upon forensic evidence, scrutiny and what’s been said by those two individuals” and that Putin was now liable for arrest if he set foot in any of the court’s more than 120 member states.

War-battered Ukraine welcomed the ICC announcement, with President Volodymyr Zelensky hailing the “historic decision.” Moscow dismissed the orders as “void.”

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