Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to be handcuffed any time soon after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him, but former US officials and war crimes prosecutors said the world of the former Russian agent the KGB was significantly reduced after the announcement.

The court’s indictment on Friday that he oversaw the war crime of kidnapping and illegally deporting children from Ukraine to Russia ensures his status as an international pariah and will severely limit his ability to travel outside of Russia, experts said.

“The upshot of this is that you won’t be traveling anywhere you think you’re going to be arrested,” said Todd Buchwald, who served as special coordinator for the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice in the Obama and Trump administrations.

Although the ICC has no police force of its own, the order «cordons off» the 123 countries that signed the statute creating the court, because Putin risks arrest if he travels to any of them, said Buchwald, now a senior law professor at George Washington University Law School.

Under the statute, those countries are required to execute arrest warrants, regardless of the defendant’s rank. But most governments also abide by an international legal principle that heads of state have legal immunity from other courts.

And it’s unclear how many governments would be willing to comply and arrest the president of an oil-rich, nuclear-armed power with a record of revenge and murder.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, rejected the court’s findings. “We do not recognize this court, we do not recognize the jurisdiction of this court. This is how we deal with this,” he said in a Telegram post on Friday.

But Putin will have to reckon with the danger of being arrested and transferred to The Hague in the Netherlands, where the court is based.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.Sergei Bobylev / Kremlin Pool / Sputnik via AP file)

The order also «puts pressure on any future Russian government,» said Wayne Jordash, a British lawyer who leads teams of local and international prosecutors and investigators in Ukraine. “If they want to normalize relations with the international community, then there is an easy way to do it: hand it over for trial,” he said.

There is a precedent for a country turning its leader over to court for war crimes.

The arrest warrant issued in 1999 for then Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic by the United Nations Yugoslav Tribunal for war crimes committed in Bosnia «became the vehicle used to get him out of Serbia,» said Dermot Groome, who led the investigation. and prosecution of Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

“As more and more Serb citizens and members of the military grew weary of his iron grip on power and waste of the lives of young Serbs in neighboring Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, his support crumbled, and in June 2001 , he was arrested by Serbian authorities and transferred to The Hague with that arrest warrant, where he was tried for international crimes,” said Groome, now a professor at Penn State Dickinson Law.

Milosevic died before the trial could conclude, and the limitations of the ICC are well known. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the former president of Sudan, has been charged but never arrested in the countries to which he has traveled.

But the court convicted 10 people, including Thomas Lubanga, convicted of war crimes in 2012, for using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And there is hope that the arrest warrant for Putin could lessen excessive violence and brutality in Ukraine, where Russia has also paid a heavy price since the February 2022 invasion, with some estimating the country lost around 200,000 soldiers. in the first year of the war.

The move warns Russia that international prosecutors are closely monitoring the regime’s actions on the battlefield and could make some Russian officials think twice about executing orders that could put them in legal jeopardy, experts said.

It “puts pressure” on people around Putin “to distance themselves from him,” Buchwald said.

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