Putin can still visit these major countries after the ICC arrest warrant

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to issue an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin theoretically isolates the Russian president from two-thirds of the world, but it still leaves him with a significant number of countries he can visit.

The arrest warrants for Putin and Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova were linked to the forced deportation of children during the war from Ukraine to Russia, where many were adopted by Russian families.

The forced deportation of populations is recognized as a crime by the Rome statute, to which Russia was a signatory but withdrew in 2016. Because Moscow does not recognize the tribunal, Putin or Lvova-Belova are unlikely to be handed over to its jurisdiction.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via video link at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 17, 2023. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader, with Moscow accused of deporting thousands of Ukrainian children.
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But it sends a signal to senior Russian officials that they could face prosecution and limits their ability to travel abroad, including to attend international forums.

Balkees Jarrah, deputy director of international justice at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement to Newsweek that the decision sends “a clear message that ordering the commission of or condoning serious crimes against civilians can lead to a cell prison in The Hague”.

Friday’s ICC ruling means the court’s 123 member states would have to arrest the Russian president and transfer him to The Hague, the Netherlands, for trial if he sets foot on their territory. However, with 193 member states of the United Nations, there are still 70 countries that would not fall under the umbrella of the ICC ban.

The United States took part in the negotiations that led to the formation of the ICC, but in 1998 it was one of seven countries to vote against the Rome Statute, the court’s founding treaty.

However, the United States sanctioned Putin on February 25, 2022, the day after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The other countries that voted against the Rome Statute are Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, Yemen and China.

Beijing is still officially neutral on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and trade and ties between China and Russia have strengthened since the start of the war and would therefore likely welcome a visit from Putin. Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to meet Putin next week in the Russian capital.

Putin can still travel to Iran, which has acted as a key ally of Moscow, supplying it with drones for its war effort. The world’s largest democracy, India, is also not a signatory to the ICC and did not condemn Putin’s invasion. Over the past year, he has solidified his ties with Moscow.

Meanwhile, Putin maintains close ties with the countries of the former Soviet Union, with the exception of the Baltic states and Georgia, which recognize the ICC.

This still leaves him the possibility of visiting countries of the Moscow-led alliances of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), such as Armenia and Azerbaijan. Belarus, whose leader Alexander Lukashenko allows Russian forces to use the country as a staging post in the war, remains a strong ally.

Ukraine is not a signatory to the tribunal in The Hague but has granted the ICC jurisdiction to investigate war crimes committed on its territory. Kyiv said more than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the start of the war, many believed to have been placed in institutions and foster homes.

A spokesperson for the US State Department told Newsweek that the Kremlin has in some cases cut off communication with the children’s families and guardians and has not provided registration lists of those who have been relocated and expelled.

“We will continue to press Moscow to cooperate in tracing families and facilitating reunification, which begins with providing access to international organizations and independent outside observers,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

The statement said the “forced resettlement, re-education and adoption of Ukrainian children” were part of the Kremlin’s efforts “to deny and suppress Ukraine’s identity, history and culture”.

“The devastating effects of Russia’s failure in the war of aggression will be felt for generations,” the State Department added.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia “does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and therefore any such decision is null and void.” Newsweek has contacted the Kremlin for comment.


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