What the ICC's Arrest Warrant Means for Putin

If nothing else, Russian leader will have to curtail his travel to nations that work with the court
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2023 2:46 PM CDT
Putin Is a Wanted Man. Now What?
Russian President Vladimir Putin.   (Alexey Maishev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Vladimir Putin is in rare, if unwanted, company: On Friday, he became only the third sitting president to be the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, notes Reuters. The others were Sudan's Omar al-Bashir and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. So now what? Nobody is holding their breath waiting for a trial. Coverage:

  • The charges: The ICC accused Putin of war crimes, specifically the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine into Russia, per the BBC. The court also issued a warrant for the arrest of Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights. A Yale research project identified 6,000 Ukrainian children held in Russia or Russia-controlled areas of Ukraine since last year's invasion, per the New York Times.

  • A trial? Unlikely, to say the least. The ICC cannot try defendants in absentia, and Russia is not about to surrender anyone, let alone Putin. Moscow doesn't even recognize the ICC, reports the Guardian. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday called ICC decisions “legally void" and this one in particular “outrageous and unacceptable," per the AP. "Yankees, hands off Putin!" wrote parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin on Telegram. He accused the West of "hysteria."
  • Consequences: Even if no trial results, the move nevertheless carries "symbolic weight," per the Washington Post. More practically, Putin faces arrest if he travels to a country that cooperates with the ICC. “This makes Putin a pariah,” says Stephen Rapp, a former ambassador-at-large for war crimes under President Obama. “If he travels, he risks arrest. This never goes away. Russia cannot gain relief from sanctions without compliance with the warrants.”
  • Echoing that: "So Putin might go to China, Syria, Iran, his ... few allies, but he just won’t travel to the rest of the world and won’t travel to ICC member states who he believes would actually ... arrest him,” Adil Ahmad Haque, an expert in international law at Rutgers, tells the AP. The outlet notes that this is the first time the ICC has issued a warrant against the leader of one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
(More Vladimir Putin stories.)

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