Russia’s Alliance Woes Pile Up With a New Public Warning

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The Kremlin is fuming about Armenia’s efforts to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin in connection with alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Kremlin Spokersperson Dmitry Peskov warned that Armenia’s interest in joining the ICC is “extremely hostile” to Russia.

“Armenia knows very well that we are not parties to the [Rome Statute], and Armenia is well aware of the difficult decision [of the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin], adopted on the basis of this statute,” Peskov said, according to TASS. “We know that in Yerevan about this is very well known. This is not something that we welcome.”

The arrest warrant was issued in relation to Putin’s alleged involvement in abducting children from Ukraine during the war. The ICC doesn’t have the power to enforce its arrest warrant, so any effort to apprehend Putin will have to be in coordination with local authorities.

The icy statement from Moscow comes as Armenia signals it is interested in a foreign policy less dependent on Russia, after Moscow failed to intervene when Azerbaijani military forces attacked the breakaway republic Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave located inside Azerbaijan, last week. Armenia is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a group in which members promise to protect each other if attacked.

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Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called his country’s security understandings with Russia “ineffective.”

“It has become evident to all of us that the CSTO instruments and the instruments of the Armenian-Russian military-political cooperation are insufficient for protecting external security of Armenia,” Pashinyan said this week.

Armenia is now working to grapple with a surge of ethnic Armenian refugees fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh. Over 76,000 ethnic Armenians—over half of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population—have arrived in Armenia already, fleeing violence and the looming dissolution of their regional authorities, the office of the Prime Minister of Armenia said Thursday.

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The separatist region capitulated to Azerbaijan and announced it will cease to exist by January 1, 2024. President Samvel Shakhramanyan, the region’s separatist leader, signed a decree this week aimed at dismantling all of the region’s institutions, urging residents to consider integrating with Azerbaijan.

Armenia is hoping to join the ICC in order to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its violence and alleged war crimes, according to Armenia’s Minister of Justice, Grigor Minasyan.

Azerbaijan has denied it has conducted ethnic cleansing, and rather has claimed it began its lightning offensive last week to go after "anti-terrorist" operations, according to TASS.

Pashinyan sent the ICC’s founding document, the Rome Statute, to parliament earlier this month. Armenia signed the Rome Statute 25 years ago but never ratified it.

Changes won’t happen immediately, but Armenia’s parliament is taking steps this week towards ratification of the statute. The Armenian National Assembly’s Standing Committee on State-Legal Issues approve the decision on Thursday, according to Armenian Public Radio.

If ratified, the Rome Statute would enter into force in 60 days, according to Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Representative of the Republic of Armenia for International Legal Matters.

While Moscow is irritated with Armenia’s desire to join the ICC, Armenia has expressed that it is not interested in angering Moscow, but instead is focused on going after Azerbaijan.

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Armenia has long been interested in joining the ICC. Last year, Pashinyan’s administration began the process of ratifying the Rome Statute to hold Azerbaijan accountable for a spate of violence in 2021 and 2022 as well.

Pashinyan previously pushed back on the idea that joining the ICC is a barb aimed at Russia.

“The decision is not directed against CSTO and the Russian Federation," he said. "It comes from the interests of the country's external security, and taking such a decision is our sovereign right.”

“War crimes are being committed against our country. We need this [ratification]; our country needs it,” he said.

Kirakosyan, too, sought to throw cold water on the idea that if Putin were to visit Armenia while it is party to the Rome Statue that he would be arrested.

“Leaders of countries have immunity,” he said Thursday.

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