Russia opens criminal probe into ICC after Putin arrest warrant

Russian President Vladimir Putin participates in an annual extended meeting of the Board of the Russian Interior Ministry in Moscow on March 20, 2023. PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • The ICC March 17 announced an arrest warrant for Putin on the war crime accusation of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children.

The Kremlin has hit back at the International Criminal Court [ICC] with a probe of its own, targeting officials of the global judicial organ, after it issued warrants of arrest against Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes.

On Monday, Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against ICC prosecutor Karim Khan and other ICC judges.

The move signals defiance of the warrant of arrest issued three days ago against Putin and his children's commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for the war crimes in Ukraine.

"The Russian Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Ahmad Khan, judges of the International Criminal Court Tomoko Akane, Rosario Salvatore Aitala and Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godinez," the Committee said.

According to the Committee, the case against the prosecutor was opened “on charges of criminal prosecution of an innocent person with illegal charges of committing a grave crime.”

"The criminal case is knowingly unlawful since there are no grounds for bringing them to criminal responsibility," the Investigative Committee stressed.

It added that in accordance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons dated December 14, 1973, heads of state enjoy absolute immunity from the jurisdiction of foreign states.

Speaking at the Interior Ministry’s Board, President Putin said attempts to influence Russian society from within were one of the enemy's key activities.

"Certainly, any attempts of adversaries and their agents on the territory of our country aimed at rocking our society must be harshly suppressed. This activity is one of the key areas of the enemy's work against Russia," President Putin said.

The ICC's move obliges the court's 123 member states to arrest President Putin and extradite him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory.

He is set to visit South Africa in August for the BRICS Summit and the expectation is that the Southern African country will effect the arrest.

Ukraine says more than 16,000 children have been illegally transferred to Russia or Russian-occupied territories since the war started nearly 13 months ago.

Russia has publicly said it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia in what it presents as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and abandoned children in the conflict zone.

Putin says ties with Africa a 'priority'

President Vladimir Putin said Monday that deepening ties between Russia and Africa was a key goal for the Kremlin, as Moscow seeks to expand its influence on the continent.

He added that Russia would continue supplying the continent with grain if Moscow exits a landmark agreement with Ukraine to allow exports from the country's Black Sea ports.

"Let me emphasise that our country has always given -- and will continue to give -- priority to cooperation with African states," Putin said in a televised address at a conference on Russian-African relations.

Putin's comments come as Moscow is seeking deeper political, economic and military ties in Africa and Asia as Russia becomes increasingly isolated on the international stage over the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia, a key arms exporter to Africa, is making forays into the continent including through mining projects granted to the Wagner private paramilitary group.

Turkey announced this weekend the extension of the deal that has allowed Ukraine to export grain following Russia's offensive, but Moscow has said it only agreed to a 60-day extension, not 120 days.

Putin said on Monday Russia would continue to deliver grain, regardless of the status of the deal.

"If we decide not to extend this deal after 60 days, then we are ready to supply free of charge the volumes that were sent to the countries most in need in Africa," he said during a televised address.

The deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022 -- and signed by Kyiv and Moscow -- had allowed for the safe passage of exports. It was extended for 120 days in November- Additional reporting by AFP


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