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Russia opens criminal case against ICC chief prosecutor, judges over arrest warrant for Putin

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 by AFP)

Russia has opened a criminal case against chief prosecutor and judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in response to an arrest warrant they issued for President Vladimir Putin on war crime charges.

The Hague-based Court announced on Friday that it had issued arrest warrants for Putin and another key Russian official for alleged crimes committed during Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said on Monday it had opened a criminal case against ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan and judges for issuing the arrest warrant.

It said the ICC prosecutor's actions showed signs of being crimes under Russian law, knowingly accusing an innocent person of a crime, and "preparing an attack on a representative of a foreign state enjoying international protection, in order to complicate international relations.”

The Kremlin has formerly called the move outrageous and legally void, as Russia is not a signatory to the treaty that created the ICC. Russia withdrew from the ICC treaty under a directive signed by Putin in 2016.

The move, however, could hamstring the Russian president’s travel to any of the 123 countries that do recognize the ICC's jurisdiction.

Kremlin: ICC warrant for Putin shows 'clear hostility' towards Russia

In a relevant development on Monday, the Kremlin slammed the ICC for its arrest warrant against Putin, describing it as an act of hostility.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia was reacting "calmly" and was continuing its work.

"We are witnessing such a number of clearly hostile displays against our country and against our president," Peskov said, adding,"We note them, but if we took every one to heart, nothing good would come of it. Therefore we look at this calmly, note everything attentively and continue to work."

In the meantime, the ICC chief prosecutor said he will plead for extra cash to pursue alleged war crimes in Ukraine, including the potential prosecution of Putin for what he claimed to be overseeing the abduction of children from Ukraine to Russia.

Khan, a British judge, has always insisted the ICC has the required powers to prosecute the role of president Putin in the war in Ukraine.

China: ICC should avoid 'double standards'

China also reacted to the ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin, calling on the world body to avoid double standards and respect immunity for heads of state.

The court should "uphold an objective and impartial stance" and "respect the immunity of heads of state from jurisdiction under international law," China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing.

Wang also urged the court to "avoid politicization and double standards," stressing that the solution to the ongoing war in Ukraine should be sought through "dialogue and negotiation."

His remarks came on the same day that China’s President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow for an official three-day visit.

"The two sides will practice genuine multilateralism, promote democracy in international relations, build a multipolar world, improve global governance and contribute to world development and progress," Wang told the Monday briefing.

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