March 29, 2023

Message from Vladimir Putin to the Federal Assembly
Message from Vladimir Putin to the Federal AssemblyPhoto: Sergei Karpukhin/TASS/IMAGO

The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrant for the Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is suspected of violent deportations of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine. Similar accusations have also been made against Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights under the President of Russia. The big question is which of the two arrest warrants issued in The Hague is more important from a historical point of view.

Where were you for nine years?

If you did not live on another planet or did not try with all your might to abstract from the surrounding reality, then it was hardly a surprise for you that the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of the Russian president. He worked on this even before 2014: the second war in Chechnya, where crimes against humanity were also committed, reprisals against opposition inside Russia and assassinations organized Russian special services outside its borders, numerous other crimes. But after annexation of Crimea and the start of the war in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine, the question of when Putin will be tried began to be asked regularly.

Ivan Preobrazhensky
Ivan PreobrazhenskyPhoto: Peter Steinmetz/DW

I am sure that the decision of the court in The Hague did not come as a surprise to the Russian president himself. He waited for him and was afraid at the same time. Now, he probably thinks that this is confirmation of his long-standing suspicions about the desire of the West to get rid of him in any way. Russia has clearly been wary of such a decision since 2016, when it withdrew its signature to the Rome Statute establishing and recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Thus, in the solution ICC by and large, there is no sensation. Unless you can call this order a signal to the Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is coming to Moscow, who will have to shake hands with an official criminal. Therefore, it is no less interesting to consider the details and consequences of the ICC decision, which now seem to many to be secondary or secondary.

The first president is a kidnapper

The English word kidnapper has long been interpreted broadly as kidnapping in general, but initially referred only to children. From this point of view, it fits perfectly with the charges leveled against Vladimir Putin. He is the first head of state (in principle, there were only four of them in the history of the ICC and one was even acquitted in the end), who is accused of such a form of crime against humanity as mass deliberate kidnapping of children and their forced Russification.

The choice of this particular reason from a whole bunch of crimes for which the Russian president is responsible is hardly accidental. This is not about empty originality. Firstly, such a corpus delicti gives the ICC the right to try Putin, even if Russia has ceased to recognize the jurisdiction of the court in The Hague since 2016. Secondly, we live in a very imperfect world, where wars are constantly going on and various crimes are being committed. It is difficult to shock a modern person. But the abduction of children is exactly what is recognized as an absolutely unacceptable act.

Moreover, monstrous crimes have such a property that often the human mind refuses to believe in them, if it has not yet encountered something similar. Unfortunately, there have been similar crimes in the history of Europe. For example, during the civil war in Spain, the Francoists seized children from republican families and distributed them to “trustworthy” parents, and the country is still rethinking the consequences of this fanaticism even now.

So the Europeans can understand and realize what Putin has done, and they will understand and support the decision of the court. As, most likely, many Russians. It is hardly a coincidence that Putin’s entourage and propagandists, outraged by the arrest warrant issued in his name, try not to mention both the elements of his crime and Maria Lvova-Belova, who was also accused of kidnapping children. The Russians clearly do not want to give a reason to once again think about what their country is doing now.

Is there life after Putin?

However, the reluctance to mention the arrest warrant for the Russian children’s rights commissioner may also be due to simple psychological repression. For the Russian ruling class, “linking” her into one package with Putin is very bad news.

It’s easy to imagine what you’re thinking Russian “elites”. More precisely, that part of them that hopes to retain their capital and influence, having outlived Putin, no matter how the war unleashed by him ends. Not in words, but in deeds, they were given to understand that to get away from personal responsibility fail. They, like Lvova-Belova, are accomplices, the only question is when the warrant will be issued in their name. Unlike the president, they also do not have immunity from criminal prosecution under international law.

Even if Putin is replaced by someone else, the war will end, and relations with the West will normalize, their criminal cases will be terminated only “on the fact of death.” Now the question is how they will react. “Rally around the flag”, which is Putin for them? Will they run away from responsibility and out of the country before it’s too late? Or will they decide to fight, at least for their future well-being?

Author: Ivan Preobrazhensky, candidate of political sciences, expert on Central and Eastern Europe, columnist for a number of media. Writer of the weekly column on DW. Ivan Preobrazhensky in Facebookk.

The comment expresses the personal opinion of the author. It may not coincide with the opinion of the Russian editorial board and Deutsche Welle generally.

See also:

Ukrainian woman returned the child from Russia

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