“Our President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise”, welcomed the governor of Sevastopol on Saturday March 18, while the Russian leader stopped in the port city of Crimea to celebrate the 9th anniversary of its annexation.
Vladimir Putin, who very rarely leaves the Kremlin, has increased his travels the day after the arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, for the “illegal deportation” of thousands of Ukrainian children. This mandate also targets the Russian presidential commissioner for the rights of the child, Maria Lvova-Belova.
“Vladimir Putin claims to remain master of the game”
On March 18, the head of the Kremlin also met the chief of staff of the Russian army in Rostov-on-the-Don, not far from the Ukrainian border. And, for the first time since the outbreak on February 24, 2022 of the offensive he is leading against Ukraine, he went to the conquered zone of Donbass and visited Mariupol, “at night like a thief”, castigated the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.
“With these unexpected trips, Vladimir Putin claims to remain master of the game, to affirm that the annexed Crimea belongs to him and, in Mariupol, that he is in no way in a logic of withdrawal”, analyzes Pierre Hazan, author of Negotiating with the devil (1). A response in the form of an arm of honor to his indictment by the ICC, whose jurisdiction he does not recognize. This arrest warrant is “null and void” declared the Kremlin. Ex-president Dmitry Medvedev even compared it to toilet paper.
“There is no doubt that no one will stop him”
The ICC was extraordinarily quick to indict the head of the Kremlin. A possible indictment because Ukraine recognizes the jurisdiction of the Court, even if it is not a State party to the Rome Statute which founded the latter. In twenty years of existence of the ICC, only two heads of state in office have been indicted, the Sudanese Omar El Bashir in 2009 (never delivered to the Court) and the Libyan Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 (his death four months later closed the case).
Despite the extent of the crimes for which Vladimir Putin is accused, “no doubt that no one will stop him”, believes Pierre Hazan. The ICC certainly has the power to lift the diplomatic immunity of a sitting president, but does not have an international police force. So before being imprisoned in his country, Omar El Béchir had been able to travel in a dozen States without being worried.
“The bidding is rising in this war of planetary dimensions”
“Can the indictment of Vladimir Putin have the virtue of preventing or deterring other crimes, or can making him an international pariah further push him in his headlong rush? Asks Pierre Hazan. A priori, it complicates a hypothetical peace process, even if the prosecutor can stop the judicial process in the interest of the victims. »
The Russian president has apparently opted for one-upmanship. “And the stakes are rising in this war of planetary dimensions, between, on the one hand, an offensive Putin who asserts himself on “his” annexed and occupied lands and, on the other, a rise in power of certain Western states – the delivery of combat aircraft to Ukraine is not a taboo, declared the French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, he continues. In this context, we will closely scrutinize Xi Jinping’s statements. The Chinese leader is expected on March 20 in Russia.
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