The Kremlin is panicking behind the scenes about the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes, according to current and former Russian officials who spoke with The Moscow Times.
Just after the ICC announced the arrest warrant, issued over Putin’s alleged involvement in illegally deporting children from Ukraine and kidnapping them, the Kremlin organized a special meeting to discuss Russia’s response, according to the report.
Concerns have bubbled up about political stability, Putin’s image on the world stage, and his inability to travel to other countries that might seek to enforce it, sources who spoke to the outlet alleged. The meeting reportedly included officers from the Federal Security Service (FSB) in order to discuss internal stability.
One parliamentary deputy from the ruling United Russia party fretted that the arrest warrant is aimed at regime change in Russia.
“This is essentially a call to overthrow the government in Russia,” they said.
The reported concern inside the Kremlin stands in stark contrast to the image Moscow has been working to portray. Russian government officials have been working to downplay the threat of the ICC arrest warrant, with the Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov labeling the warrant “outrageous and unacceptable” and overall legally irrelevant.
But because the ICC doesn’t have the power to enforce its warrants itself, it’s up to other nations to decide whether to abide by the warrant and arrest Putin if he visits their countries. Several officials in different countries—even those that have sought to appear neutral in the war in Ukraine, such as Austria, or those that have aligned themselves with Moscow in the past, such as Armenia—have indicated they will honor the arrest warrant.
Putin, it appears, could soon find himself struggling to figure out where he can or can’t travel without getting arrested. South Africa, which is a member of the ICC and therefore expected to honor its warrants, is hosting a conference in August that the Russian president may be attending.
The Kremlin is internally displeased at conversations about whether he will be arrested pursuant to the warrant abroad, one source said.
“These discussions naturally displease the Kremlin,” a source reportedly close to the Kremlin told The Moscow Times. “It would like them to end.”