“Let him die,” shouts a woman on the streets of Kyiv when asked how she feels about the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Vladimir Putin of responsibility for the war crime of illegally deporting children from Ukraine.
Her point made, she walks off before Kyiv Post can even ask for her name.
The decision to issue an arrest warrant for Putin caused a strong reaction among Kyiv residents – celebratory but also pragmatic.
“It is a purely political act,” 73-year-old Valery tells Kyiv Post. “Physically, it is impossible to get him.”
In its first warrant involving Ukraine, the ICC on Friday issued an arrest warrant and called for Putin’s arrest on suspicion of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
Estimates of how many children have been deported to the Russian Federation from Ukraine vary, including as one estimate as high as 300,000 since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. It is believed that many have been placed in institutions and foster homes.
While the war crimes charges against the Russian President are severe, Russia is not a party to the ICC. Therefore, it is unclear if or how Putin could ever end up in the dock. Moscow has already dismissed the indictment and warrant as "void."
Yet, even if Putin never ends up in a court, the idea of him being forced to stay in Russia, presumably until he dies, is some consolation for Ukrainians.
“I was glad,” says 23-year-old Volodymyr. “He should not be allowed to leave his country and have to stay in his swamp.
“He is a terrorist, and he should be in prison. I don’t think he will ever be arrested – he will not leave Russia.”
The symbolism of the ICC issuing the warrant has also been welcomed in Ukraine, with some people hoping it could affect the way in which Russia’s allies approach the conflict.
“I don't think there will be an arrest,” said Alevtina, 64. “But this is a political message to all the other countries who may be trying to support Russia somehow and pretend nothing is going on.
“It is a just decision but it's also a black mark.”
Her companion, Alina, 63 adds: “We did have a drink when we heard the news though.”
The ICC was established in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression when member states are unwilling or unable to do so themselves.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan told AFP that Putin was now liable for arrest if he set foot in any of the court's more than 120 member states – of which Ukraine is not one.
He said the arrest warrants were "based upon forensic evidence, scrutiny and what's been said by those two individuals" (referring also to Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian children's rights commissioner, who has also been accused).
ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said the execution of the warrants "depends on international cooperation".
Beyond just being forcing Putin to stay in Russia for the rest of his life, the decision portends an even grimmer future for Putin, according to 31-year-old Mykyta.
“At first, I thought it was just a formality,” she says. “Then, I read several analytical articles, listened to bloggers and opinions of Western and Ukrainian institutions, and learned that this would significantly impact the future.
“I think, he will suffer a similar fate to Gaddafi – he will simply be killed in a coup during internal unrest in Russia.”
President Zelensky this week welcomed the arrest warrants.
"A historic decision from which historic responsibility will begin," Zelensky said.
Ukraine's Western allies also hailed the move. US President Joe Biden said the warrant was "justified," and "makes a very strong point," while noting that the United States is not a member of the ICC.
"There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine, and we have been clear that those responsible must be held accountable," a State Department spokesperson said. "The ICC Prosecutor is an independent actor."
Britain called the decision "welcome" and the European Union said it was "just the start."
Human Rights Watch said it was a "big day for the many victims" of Russian forces.
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