NATO ally Hungary throws Putin a lifeline, saying it won't arrest him despite ICC warrant tied to Ukraine war

·2-min read
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Russian President Vladimir Putin shaking hands.
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, September,18, 2018.Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
  • Hungary signaled it would not arrest Putin if he visited even though the ICC issued an arrest warrant.

  • Hungary is an ICC member, but said that under Hungarian law it can't arrest Putin.

  • Hungary's leader, Viktor Orbán, is an authoritarian with close ties to Putin.

Hungary signaled it would not try to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he visited the country, even though the International Criminal Court recently issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader over allegations of involvement in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children.

"We can refer to the Hungarian law and based on that we cannot arrest the Russian President," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said on Thursday, per Reuters.

"The ICC's statute has not been promulgated in Hungary," Gulyas said, adding that his government hasn't yet formed a stance on the arrest warrant for Putin.

Hungary is a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC. "The responsibility to enforce warrants of arrest issued by an ICC Chamber remains with States. States Parties to the Rome Statute have a legal obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC," according to the ICC.

Though the US is not an ICC member and does not recognize the court's jurisdiction, President Joe Biden said the arrest warrant for Putin was "justified."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also called on European Union countries to enforce the warrant and detain Putin and turn the Russian leader over to the court if he visits. Since launching the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Putin has limited his travel to countries friendly to Moscow. Putin is unlikely to ever stand trial before the ICC, given the court does not try people in absentia.

Though Hungary is a NATO ally and EU member, its government has often butted heads with the West — particularly in relation to the Ukraine war. Hungary, for example, refused to join fellow EU members in embargoing Russian oil imports after the war began.

Orbán, an authoritarian who has faced criticism in the West over his friendly ties with Putin, has consistently opposed the delivery of Western weapons to Ukraine, as well as EU sanctions against Russia. Budapest — along with Turkey's government — has also slowed down the process of adding Finland and Sweden to NATO.

The Biden administration has not invited Hungary and Turkey, also a NATO ally, to next week's Summit for Democracy, according to a Foreign Policy report. Relations between Washington and both countries have soured in recent years over democratic backsliding and the controversial policies of their governments. The White House did not offer a comment when contacted by Insider.

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