Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, predicted that the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday for alleged war crimes by Russian President Vladimir Putin would keep the Russian leader on hold for the rest of his life.
“Putin is being haunted by warrant for the rest of his life,” McFaul tweeted Saturday, also sharing his Friday interview with NBC News host Chuck Todd Meet the press.
Putin had long been accused of war crimes, even before he invaded Ukraine last February, but calls for an investigation into these crimes grew louder as the war in the eastern European country began. According to Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, the Russian Federation has been implicated in human rights abuses and crackdowns on dissidents in Crimea, annexed from Ukraine by Moscow in 2014.
It’s unlikely the Russian president will be impeached while he’s still in power, Todd said in his interview with McFaul on Friday. According to Bloomberg, Russian leaders are also not guaranteed to be held accountable and brought to justice under international law, as the ICC relies on its member states to carry out arrests. However, the defendants have always been able to avoid traveling to countries where they may have been transferred.
Still, McFaul described the ICC’s move as “symbolic,” though Putin won’t be arrested anytime soon, he predicted. The International Criminal Court prosecutes those accused of war crimes, while Russia refuses to recognize the court.
Putin has been charged by the ICC with unlawfully abducting Ukrainian children and youth and transporting them to Russia, where many have been adopted by Russian families. An arrest warrant was also issued for Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova.
“We want to talk about these crimes that he committed. We want to document them and discourage others from possibly participating in them in the future. I think that’s the most important thing,” said McFaul, who served as Russia’s US ambassador from 2012 to 2014. “People might think twice about it. Russians might think twice about committing similar crimes in Ukraine, knowing they… went after Putin, they can trace you to Mr. Soldier. So I think that’s a good thing.”
He continued: “This is going to haunt him [Putin] for the rest of his life. He will be charged by them for the rest of his life. He needs to think about where he will travel for the rest of his life. And in other cases I think of [Slobodan] When Milošević was originally charged with crimes against humanity, he laughed that [as if it was] no big deal. It became a big deal after he was overthrown and then [he was] eventually arrested.”
Milošević was the former president of Serbia who was ousted in 2000 after mass protests in Belgrade that broke out after he denied the results of the presidential election held on September 24 of the same year. He lost to Vojislav Koštunica, the Serbian Democratic Opposition candidate, and eventually conceded on October 5.
Two years later he was charged with genocide and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo and tried in The Hague, Netherlands. He died of a heart attack in 2006 while in his prison cell at the Hague Tribunal Detention Centre.
The ongoing large-scale invasion of Ukraine has already affected Putin’s lifestyle, according to former US ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, who said that the Russian president is concerned for his own safety and as a result may restrict his freedom of movement.
“From what we’ve seen, his lifestyle has been impacted in the following way,” Sullivan said last week. “He can’t travel anywhere near south-west Russia by plane, to get to Sochi, for example, which is one of his favorite places. He cannot travel there by plane. He travels more by train now. He’s concerned for his own safety. As for the economic implications of being more concerned with supporting his lavish lifestyle, I don’t think that matters as much as concerns about his own safety.
news week emailed the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.