Putin’s arrest warrant: how the world is reacting and what consequences to expect.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued international arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova. Information about this is posted on the court’s website. They are suspects in the illegal forced transfer of Ukrainian children. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the ICC’s arrest warrants have no legal significance for Russia, in particular from a legal point of view.

Ukraine’s reaction

In Ukraine, the court’s decision was received very favorably.

During his evening address on March 17, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the decision of the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin was historic and that historical responsibility would begin with him. This is a case that has a real prospect in the field of international justice.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also welcomed the decision on Twitter

The reaction of the world

Asked about the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, President Biden said Friday, “I think it’s justified.” He noted that the ICC is not recognized by the United States, but said the warrant “makes a very strong point.” Putin has “clearly committed war crimes,” Biden added, speaking to reporters at the White House as he boarded Marine One to head to his home in Delaware for the weekend. 

The United Kingdom and Canada also welcome the issue of an arrest warrant for the Russian leader by the International Criminal Court. 

James Kariuki, Deputy British Ambassador to the United Nations, said that his country “is fully committed to bringing Russia to justice for its illegal actions in Ukraine.”

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly also wrote about this on her Twitter page.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief is hailing the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin as “an important decision of international justice” and “just the start” in an international legal process to hold Putin accountable.

“The gravity of the crimes and the statement of the ICC speak for themselves,” Josep Borrell, high representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said Friday.

Commenting on the ICC’s decision, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas wrote: “A step closer to judgment day.”

The reaction of human rights organizations

Human Rights Watch called the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin a “wakeup call to others committing abuses or covering them up” in a statement on Friday.

“This is a big day for the many victims of crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since 2014. With these arrest warrants, the ICC has made Putin a wanted man and taken its first step to end the impunity that has emboldened perpetrators in Russia’s war against Ukraine for far too long,” said Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, CNN reports.

“The warrants send a clear message that giving orders to commit or tolerating serious crimes against civilians may lead to a prison cell in The Hague. The court’s warrants are a wakeup call to others committing abuses or covering them up that their day in court may be coming, regardless of their rank or position,” Jarrah said.

What Russia says about the ICC decision

“The ICC, which is not recognized by Russia, said it had issued arrest warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova. The decisions of the International Criminal Court on the “arrest” have no significance for Russia, in particular from a legal point of view, they are legally null and void,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

She also added that Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and has no obligations under it.

Maria Zakharova/Telegram

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has previously said that Russia does not recognize the ICC or its jurisdiction. Dmitry Medvedev, the former president of Russia, now the deputy chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, compared the warrant to toilet paper.

Why is this decision important and what consequences can we expect?

Although Moscow has stated that the Hague court’s arrest warrant for Putin is of no importance to Russia, the number of options for the Russian president’s future has been significantly narrowed.

The warrant will have a number of specific consequences:

First, Putin has been stripped of his immunity as head of state – he no longer has the immunity from prosecution that all other presidents have.

In addition, Putin will not be able to travel to most countries of the world, as 123 states are parties to the Rome Statute. These include all European countries, all of South America (including such Russian allies as Venezuela), and even Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, or Tajikistan, which the Russian president visited in June 2022.

If Putin visits one of these countries, the local authorities are obliged to arrest him.

The West will not agree to a “peace deal” with Russia, and Moscow’s attempts to shake up the coalition of Ukraine’s international partners will not work.

But the historicity of this decision lies elsewhere. Not in the future legal consequences, but in the plane of international relations and the functioning of international law.

This is a unique legal precedent when a court order is issued against the current head of state of a G20 member state that possesses nuclear weapons and is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

With this decision, the international community and the International Criminal Court have finally shown that international law is alive. That there is no difference between “great” and “minor” states in the matter of restoring justice and maintaining peace. 

In fact, Putin is becoming an absolutely toxic figure and it will be harmful and dangerous to anyone’s reputation to meet with him.

It is also a powerful signal to other authoritarian leaders that international law will not turn a blind eye to murder, aggression, and genocide.

Slobodan Milosevic (1941-2006) has been in power for a year and a half since he was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He was arrested by the Serbian police. 

Will the ICC’s decision on Putin have the same consequences? It’s hard to say yet, but we should definitely expect the beginning of a “game of thrones” in the Kremlin.

Photo: Putin’s hypothetical scene in The Hague (generated by a neural network).

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