Ukraine hails 'historic' ICC warrant for Russia's Putin

A group of international prosecutors meet in Lviv

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine applauded the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday for issuing an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The ICC 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. It also issued warrants for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's Commissioner for Children’s Rights, on the same charges.

"Wheels of Justice are turning: I applaud the ICC decision to issue arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova over forcible transfer of Ukrainian children," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said the ICC decision was "historic for Ukraine and the entire international law system."

"Today's decision is a historic step. But it is only the beginning of the long road to restore justice," Kostin said on the Telegram messaging app.

Andriy Yermak, chief of the presidential staff, said that issuing the warrant against Putin was "only the beginning."

He said Ukraine had cooperated closely with the ICC and was currently investigating over 16,000 cases of forced children deportation to Russia. Ukraine has managed to secure the return of 308 children so far.

Moscow has denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during its one-year invasion of its neighbour.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash, Editing by Timothy Heritage)