Arresting Vladimir Putin would be a declaration of war, Russia has warned, after the International Criminal Court issued an international arrest warrant for him.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council and former president, said should Germany – or any other nation – arrest the despot, it would trigger a nuclear strike on the offending country.
Medvedev specifically blasted German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, who said last week that Putin would be arrested on the ICC’s warrant if he visits Germany.
‘Let’s imagine … the leader of a nuclear power visits the territory of Germany and is arrested,’ Medvedev said, adding that it would amount to a declaration of war. ‘In this case, our assets will fly to hit the Bundestag, the chancellor’s office and so on.’
He noted that Russia’s nuclear forces have provided a strong deterrent amid the fighting in Ukraine, adding that ‘we would have been torn to pieces without them.’
Arresting Vladimir Putin (pictured March 16 in Moscow) on war crimes charges would be seen as a declaration of war, Russia has warned, after the International Criminal Court issued an international arrest warrant for him
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council and former president, said should Germany – or any other nation – arrest the despot, it would trigger a nuclear strike on the offending country. Pictured: A Sarmat-2 nuclear missile is seen being tested in Russia
Despite the posturing, Medvedev also said today that Russia was not planning on entering a direct conflict with NATO and was interested in resolving the Ukraine war through talks.
However, he warned that any Ukrainian attempt to take the Crimean peninsula – which Moscow annexed in 2014 – would be grounds for Russia to use ‘absolutely any weapon’ against Kyiv in response.
Moscow has reacted furiously to the ICC issuing the international arrest warrant for Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, saying that it does not recognise the court while also opening its own investigation into the court.
Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-funded media outlet RT, also warned last week that Russia would launch nuclear weapons against any country that dared to arrest Putin.
Neither Simonyan or Medvedev said how Russia would avoid killing Putin with his own nukes should Moscow launch strikes on the country he was arrested in.
In comments on Thursday, the 57-year-old Medvedev denounced the charges against Putin of alleged involvement in abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine as legally null and void.
He noted that the move added to a ‘colossal negative potential’ in the already bitterly strained ties between Russia and the West. ‘Our relations with the West are already worse than they have ever been in history,’ he said.
Asked whether the threat of a nuclear conflict has eased, Medvedev responded in video remarks: ‘No, it hasn’t decreased, it has grown. Every day when they provide Ukraine with foreign weapons brings the nuclear apocalypse closer.’
Medvedev has issued a barrage of such strongly-worded statements in the past, blasting the U.S. and its NATO allies for what he described as their efforts to break up and destroy Russia.
It’s been a drastic metamorphosis for the gentle-looking politician, who once was hailed by the West as a liberal hope.
Medvedev also challenged Ukraine’s sovereignty in comments that could reflect Moscow’s plans to extend its gains.
‘Honestly speaking, Ukraine is part of Russia,’ he said, incorrectly, parroting one of the Kremlin’s lines used to justify Moscow’s armies marching into Ukraine last year.
‘But due to geopolitical reasons and the course of history we had tolerated that we were living in separate quarters and had been forced to acknowledge those invented borders for a long time.’
The West says Russia’s year-long invasion of Ukraine is an imperialistic land grab driven by Putin’s ambition to expand his borders and eradicate a sovereign country.
The soft-spoken and mild-mannered Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012 when term limits forced Putin to shift into the prime minister’s post, was widely seen by Western officials as more liberal than his mentor.
In comments on Thursday, the 57-year-old Medvedev (pictured on Tuesday in Moscow) denounced the charges against Putin of alleged involvement in abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine as legally null and void
Many in the West expected Medvedev to win a second term and further soften the Kremlin’s policies, but he stepped down to allow Putin to reclaim the presidency in what Kremlin critics denounced as a cynical manipulation.
Since Putin sent troops into Ukraine more than a year ago, Medvedev, a law faculty graduate, has emerged as one of the most hawkish Russian officials.
He regularly issues blustery remarks that combine Latin mottos and legal expressions with four-letter words, and sound much tougher than those issued by old-time Kremlin hard-liners. Observers have interpreted Medvedev’s rhetoric as an apparent attempt to curry favour with Putin.
Medvedev launched more anti-Western diatribes Thursday, declaring that ‘it’s useless to have talks’ with the West and speaking with contempt about Western politicians, alleging a ‘catastrophic drop in competence and elementary literacy of European Union leaders.’
‘I have no illusions that we could communicate with them again any time soon,’ he said. ‘It makes no sense to negotiate with certain countries and blocs – they only understand the language of force.’
Medvedev, who heads a Security Council panel coordinating weapons production, derided Western statements alleging that Russia is running out of weapons and charged Russian weapons industries have increased output.
He said that Russia will produce 1,500 battle tanks this year alone and boost production of other weapons to meet the army’s needs. His claims couldn’t be independently verified.
‘The most important thing now is to make it all in necessary volumes, and we are launching new factories to do that,’ Medvedev said.
He said that the Russian military already has good intelligence drones and loitering munitions, but acknowledged that it has yet to deploy long-range strike drones.
Medvedev drew parallels with World War II, when the Soviet Union managed to drastically ramp up weapons production. He noted that while checking historic archives, he found Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s telegrams urging arms factories directors to boost output under the threat of reprisals.
In a video fragment from his meeting with top factory managers posted Thursday, Medvedev read one of those telegrams, in which Stalin demanded a tank factory to meet the production plans and warned:
‘If you breach your duty before the Motherland, I will destroy you as criminals who forget their honour and interests of the Motherland.’
Added Medvedev: ‘I want you to hear me and remember the Generalissimo’s words. As you understand, the results were quite impressive, and if there were none you understand what happened.’
Medvedev’s comments came as authorities in Hungary said they would not arrest Putin if he entered the country, despite the ICC warrant.
Moscow has reacted furiously to the ICC issuing the international arrest warrant for Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, saying that it does not recognise the court while also opening its own investigation into the court. Pictured: Chief Prosecutor of the ICC Karim Khan (centre) speaks during the Justice Ministers’ conference in London, in support of the court and the investigation into the situation in Ukraine, March 20, 2023
Gergely Gulyas, chief of staff to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, told reporters in Budapest that arresting Putin would contravene Hungarian law because the country has not promulgated the statute of the ICC into its legal system.
Gulyas said the statute of the ICC, of which Hungary is a member state, was in conflict with Hungary’s constitution, and that arresting Putin would therefore violate Hungarian law. Orban’s government has not yet taken a position on the warrant, but Gulyas said he considered it counterproductive.
‘I think these decisions are not the most fortunate because they lead towards escalation and not towards peace,’ he said.
The chances of Putin facing trial in The Hague are highly unlikely because Moscow does not recognise the ICC’s jurisdiction or extradite its nationals.
However, the warrant could limit the Russian leader’s ability to travel to the tribunal’s 123 member nations, which could arrest him in accordance with the warrant.
The laws under which the ICC operates do not allow for leaders to be tried in absentia, and therefore they must be arrested and brought to trial in-person.
But Kyiv’s top prosecutor said on Thursday that Russian leader should be put on trial for the invasion of Ukraine, even if they cannot be arrested and brought to court.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, speaking to Reuters during a stopover in The Hague where the International Criminal Court is based, said that a planned tribunal for the crime of aggression should hold so-called trials in absentia.
Kostin spoke after meeting with the chief ICC prosecutor, which last week issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him and his children’s commissioner of the war crime of deporting children from Ukraine to Russia.
Swift work by prosecutors and cooperation with the ICC ‘was the reason for such a fast response to one of the most severe war crimes of this war, forced deportation and abduction’ of children, Kostin said.
While the ICC can prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine, it cannot prosecute the crime of aggression due to legal constraints.
International support is growing for the creation of a special tribunal that would prosecute Russian leaders for the 13-month-old invasion itself, considered by Ukraine and Western leaders to be a crime of aggression.
The special tribunal should go after ‘the highest political and military leadership, including Putin, for the crime of aggression,’ Kostin said.
‘I believe that it could be (held) in absentia, because it’s important to deliver a matter of justice for international crimes even if perpetrators are not in the dock.’
International courts very rarely hold trials in absentia and the ICC’s rules state specifically that an accused suspect shall be present during trial.
The only recent example of an international trial in absentia was in the case of Lebanon, for which a U.N.-backed tribunal convicted three men for the 2005 assassination of Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri.
A Dutch court last year convicted three men – two Russians and a Ukrainian – in the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. None of the suspects was present in court.
In a gesture of defiance, Russia’s top investigative body said on Monday it had opened a criminal case against the ICC prosecutor and judges who issued an arrest warrant for Putin, which Moscow has called outrageous and legally void.
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.
Kostin also said that his office is collecting evidence of the most difficult crime to prove, genocide, for which it must be shown that there was an intent to eliminate a specific group in whole or in part.
He said the crimes documented so far, including murders, torture, sexual violence, shelling of civilian targets and illegal detentions, were at least ‘equal to the crimes against humanity’ and have been reported across the territories occupied by Russia.
‘We carefully collected evidence which we believe will build the case of genocide,’ he said. Kostin said ‘it will take some time’ before that case is ready to go to court, adding ‘but our work will go ahead.’
Kostin’s comments came as Ukraine and the ICC signed a deal for a field office to prove war crimes in Ukraine. He said the agreement for an ICC office in Ukraine was the ‘beginning of a new chapter’ in Kyiv’s cooperation with the court.
The chances of Putin facing trial in The Hague are highly unlikely because Moscow does not recognise the ICC’s jurisdiction or extradite its nationals. However, the warrant could limit the Russian leader’s ability to travel to the tribunal’s 123 member nations, which could arrest him in accordance with the warrant. Pictured: ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan visits Bucha in April, the site of horrific Russian war crimes
‘This is just a start, a strong start,’ Kostin said at a signing ceremony in The Hague, according to an ICC statement.
‘I’m convinced that we will not stop until all perpetrators of international crimes committed in Ukraine are brought to justice, independently of their political or military position.’
ICC Registrar Peter Lewis said the court was grateful for Ukraine’s help and ‘look(s) forward to strengthening our cooperation in the future’.
Ukraine becomes the latest country to host an ICC field office after the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda; Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Georgia and Mali.