Britain has welcomed the issuing by the International Criminal Court of an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes in Ukraine.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said it was essential that those at the top of the regime in Moscow were held to account for the atrocities which have taken place since the invasion a year ago.
The Hague-based ICC said it was issuing the warrant for the arrest of the Russian leader over the alleged abduction and deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.
The charges were immediately dismissed by the Kremlin – which does not recognise the ICC – as “legally void”.
However, Mr Cleverly said in a statement posted on social media: “Those responsible for horrific war crimes in Ukraine must be brought to justice.
“We welcome the step taken by the independent ICC to hold those at the top of the Russian regime, including Vladimir Putin, to account.
“Work must continue to investigate the atrocities committed.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, also backed the move.
“Today’s announcement sends an important message: there will no hiding place for Putin and his cronies and the world is determined to make them pay for what they have done,” he said.
“These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. One day Putin will face justice: until then, the focus of all who believe in Ukraine’s liberty and freedom must continue to be on ensuring her victory.”
While there is no immediate prospect of Mr Putin facing arrest, legal experts have pointed to the examples of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and and Liberia’s president Charles Taylor as international leaders who wound up in the dock in The Hague.
Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, told the BBC: “It is, I suspect, going to be a long journey but people said that about Yugoslavia and Rwanda and many of those people responsible for the carnage ended up in the dock of a court.
“In the short term it will be very hard for President Putin to move around the world because there are so many countries who are parties to the ICC who will be duty bound to arrest him.”