Mr. Putin...open up. We have a warrant!
One of the most powerful men in the world has a warrant for his arrest. It is not news. We all saw the decision made last week. While Putin has the capability of just hiding out in his own country (U.S. Marshalls won’t be storming the Kremlin anytime soon), this could change the way the rest of Putin’s career plays out.
Putin has always had a persona that was larger than life, a hero to his people sitting high on his horse, shirt off, looking out at the future like a model in an Old Spice ad.
Now, Putin is officially a wanted man, and not the way he wanted to be wanted. It is doubtful that we will see Putin at any more summits like the G20 this September in India; summits where Putin would manipulate, handshake and talk his way deeper into the hearts of his people. I wonder what will happen as time goes by with no photo ops for Putin to display before his people… will they lose faith? Lose heart? Lose pride? They should.
Travel for Putin will now be quite perilous as any place that he might land could immediately extradite him to the Hague to stand trial. Knowing Putin, he will not be risking such an outcome anytime soon, but on the other hand, playing it with caution, Putin could realistically run the rest of his career without ever standing trial or dealing with this pesky warrant. After all, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir has been evading justice for over 13 years.
Putin, who is 70 years old merely needs to stay in power and, for the most part, stay in Russia living out the rest of his days a wanted but free man. Now, while this is a blow to the Putin marketing plan, the warrant does not discourage anyone from visiting him and re-creating new marketing plans and photo ops. As I write this President Xi Jinping of China is on his way to Moscow for a visit with the Russian President (not big shock there).
While Putin has the capability to stay free by watching what lines he crosses and what flights he takes, there is a lot of speculation as to who else might be implicated in the investigations by the International Criminal Court (ICC) who has already stated that nobody is off limits.
Anybody within the Putin administration is apparently fair game and could be implicated in the war crimes Putin is accused of, but could also have warrants issued for their arrests. Those sorry bastards won’t have the same powerful abilities as Putin himself and we could see, over the next few years, quite a group rounded up.
One concern I have is that this could turn the attitude of the Kremlin; if the accusation of criminality exists already and there is no real hope for an acquittal, what deters Putin from making more rash decisions, committing more crimes and sending more of his troops to other parts of the world or his own territory?
ICC member states are obliged to carry out the arrest warrants on Putin and Russia's presidential commissioner for children's rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, if they travel to their countries. That is 123 nations. At this point, Putin is probably feeling a bit claustrophobic and when an angry animal is backed into a corner, all bets are usually off. I still have the scars on my legs from the day I pinned a racoon in the back of a shed.
The good news for Putin, like I said, is that as long as he limits travel and is careful, he can continue. The ICC has no police force or fugitive squad that can go into Russia to grab Putin like the SWAT teams we see on television. Chances of any specialized force volunteering to extract Putin is zero. Chances of any group or faction within Russia’s borders playing a role is also zero as Russia is not a member of the ICC and has already denounced the warrant emphatically.
War crimes, which are often referred to as crimes against humanity, are violations of the customs or laws of warfare. There was no clear definition of this term prior to World War I, but in the aftermath discussions about war crimes and what should be done to punish those who commit them began between several countries. The Treaty of Versailles from 1919 was one of the first documents to discuss war crimes, and the authors attempted to create a list of offenses that would qualify. The idea of establishing an International Court of Justice was brought up, but not accepted by the majority of the participants.
The subject of war crimes was addressed in much greater detail following World War II and for obvious reasons. Members of the Allied Forces set up international tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo to deliver judgment on the criminal acts perpetrated during the war at a scale never before seen in world history. These tribunals laid down the principles which remain the foundation for international criminal law today. By 1946, the United Nations General Assembly had confirmed these “principles of international law” and began to create resolutions which set the punishment for persons guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Today, most war crimes are now punishable in two ways: death or long-term imprisonment. In order to be given one of these sentences, any instance of a war crime must be taken to the International Criminal Court.
There are a few qualifications that must be met before a case can be tried at the ICC. The crime must fall under one of the categories the court is considered to have jurisdiction over. The fine point here is that Putin is accused of crimes in Ukraine who is NOT a member of the ICC but falls under the jurisdiction due to the ICC agreeing to oversee the current situation between Russia and the Ukraine. The severity of the warrant is compounded because of all of the different war crimes that one can be accused of, Putin’s warrant is for crimes against children.
Putin’s warrant is for the illegal deportation of children from Ukraine and the unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. Another warrant has been issued for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Russian commissioner for children’s rights. The ICC said it sees reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears individual responsibility for the crimes either by committing them directly, jointly with others and/or through others, hence my hunch that we will see many more warrants issued in the near future that probably will include top military leadership and members of the Wagner Group, Putin’s hired guns.
On top of the ICC warrants, another hiccup in Putin’s grand plans may be the creation of a special tribunal currently being created to prosecute the Russian invasion as a crime of aggression.
So, who is this Belova woman? Few have heard of her, but she is suddenly at the forefront of news coverage worldwide. The 38 year old Russian woman is striking in her appearance and does not fit the television stereotype of a griseled and evil war criminal. Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova has been serving as the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights since 2021. Lvova-Belova is married to Pavel Kogelman, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church. They have five biological and eighteen adopted children.
Vladimir Putin is a former intelligence officer and has led Russia as its leader (both as Prime Minister and President) since 1999.