The Hague's chief prosecutor: Putin may stand trial for war crimes

The Hague's chief prosecutor: Putin may stand trial for war crimes

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has stated in an exclusive interview for "CNN" that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, may stand trial for alleged crimes committed during Russia's war in Ukraine, despite Moscow's arguments that he is not subject to the decisions of the judge.

Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan pointed to the historic trials of Nazi war criminals, such as that of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević and former Liberian leader Charles Taylor.

"They were also powerful individuals, yet they found themselves in the courtroom," he said.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague issued arrest warrants on Friday for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova over a scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia, a practice the Russian government has defended as "rescuing them" while denying the deportations were carried out by force.

"Putin thus becomes the first head of state of a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council against whom an arrest warrant has been issued," Khan noted.

Created to try genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes, the ICJ is recognized as the most powerful court in the world, with 123 countries party to the treaty that brought about its establishment, not including Russia, the United States, Ukraine and China. Russia withdrew from the treaty under a directive signed by Putin in 2016.

The Kremlin dismissed the arrest warrants as "unacceptable" on Friday, arguing that it is not subject to ICC rulings.

"Russia, like a number of other countries, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and, therefore, any decision of this kind is invalid for the Russian Federation from the point of view of law," spokesman Dmitry Peskov wrote on Twitter on Friday.

But Khan said that doesn't matter at all.

"Article 27 of the Rome Statute makes it very clear that the official position of an individual is irrelevant to the Court's jurisdiction," he added.

The court does not conduct trials in absentia, so accused Russian officials must either be extradited from Moscow or arrested outside of Russia.