If Russian President Vladimir Putin were to be arrested overseas following the International Criminal Court‘s arrest warrant for him, it would amount to a “declaration of war,” a top Russian official warned.
The ICC announced the arrest warrant for Putin last Friday, accusing him of being responsible for the thousands of children that have been forcibly deported to Russia, where they’ve undergone political reeducation training. The Kremlin quickly denounced the warrant and dismissed it.
“Just imagine — clearly that such a situation is never going to happen, but still — let’s imagine that it has happened. The incumbent head of a nuclear country arrives in, say, Germany and is arrested. What does it mean? A declaration of war against Russia. In such a case, all our weapons will target the Bundestag, the [German] chancellor’s office, and so on,” Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev, who held the title of Russian presidency under Putin from 2008 to 2012, said Thursday, according to state news agency TASS.
German Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann said Berlin would have to implement the ICC decision and arrest the Russian president if he arrived in Germany. In response, Medvedev said, “Does he even realize that it would be a casus belli, a declaration of war?”
If Putin were arrested abroad, it would worsen Russia’s relationship with Western countries, he said.
“Our relations with the Western world are already poor; they are perhaps at their worst ever. Even when Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech, our relationship was better. And all of a sudden, they make such a move against our head of state,” Medvedev said.
The ICC has the backing of 123 countries, but the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine are not members, though Ukraine has granted it jurisdiction over its territory.
“The human impact of these crimes was also made clear during my most recent visit to Ukraine. While there, I visited one of the care homes from which children were allegedly taken, close to the current front lines of the conflict,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, who has visited Ukraine four times since the war began, said following the release of the warrant. “The accounts of those who had cared for these children, and their fears as to what had become of them, underlined the urgent need for action. We must ensure that those responsible for alleged crimes are held accountable and that children are returned to their families and communities. As I stated at the time, we cannot allow children to be treated as if they are the spoils of war.”
Medvedev threatened the ICC earlier this week, saying, “I’m afraid, gentlemen, everyone is answerable to God and missiles. It’s quite possible to imagine how a hypersonic Oniks fired from a Russian warship in the North Sea strikes the court building in The Hague. It can’t be shot down, I’m afraid.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said any country that recognizes the ICC should arrest Putin if he arrives there.
“I think that anyone who is a party to the court and has obligations should fulfill their obligations,” Blinken said Wednesday during a Senate hearing.
The ICC also issued an arrest warrant for Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, whom they said also shared responsibility for the deportations.