Armenia promises not to arrest Putin after he threatens it with economic ruin


Armenia has said that it won’t arrest Vladimir Putin despite preparing to join the International Criminal Court which has labelled the Russian leader a war criminal.

Since its constitutional court approved joining the ICC last week, the Kremlin has threatened Armenia with “serious negative consequences” and banned its dairy imports.

But in a blow to the authority of the ICC, a top Armenian official has now confirmed that police will not arrest Mr Putin if he travels to Yerevan.

“The decision of the constitutional court does not find anyone guilty in any matter and does not require steps to arrest anyone,” said Hakob Arshakyan, deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament. “We have heard concerns expressed by the Russian Federation.”

For the Kremlin, Armenia’s move towards the ICC was not only a humiliation but also posed a practical problem.

The ICC ruled last month that Mr Putin was a war criminal for authorising the abduction of thousands of children from Ukraine. This means that the ICC now expects its 123 member states, and aspirants like Armenia, to arrest him.

Vital ally

Mr Putin’s travel options have shrunk since he ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February and he has restricted himself mainly to visiting former Soviet Central Asia and the South Caucasus. He travelled to Armenia in November for a security conference.

The war has weakened Russia’s power and influence over its former Soviet satellite states.

Armenia once viewed Russia as a vital ally that was able to impose peace in the South Caucasus but last year, Nikol Pashinyan, its prime minister, accused the Kremlin of failing to stop Azerbaijani border attacks.

He has since cancelled a military exercise, threatened to leave the Russia-led CSTO security group and courted the US and the EU.

Armenia’s parliament approved joining the ICC in 1999 but this was blocked five years later by its constitutional court.

In 2015 Armenia adopted a new constitution and in 2021 Mr Pashinyan asked the constitutional court to reconsider joining the ICC because he wants to prosecute Azerbaijani military commanders accused of crimes during a war in 2020.