Updated Jun 2, 2023, 2:41pm EDT

Will Putin ever be arrested by the ICC?

Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin

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Questions are swirling over whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the meetings of the BRICS bloc of developing economies in August in South Africa.

Since March, Putin has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. If he steps foot in South Africa — an ICC signatory country bound by the Rome Statute — the government is obligated to arrest him.

On Wednesday, however, South Africa’s deputy leader Obed Bapela said that Pretoria would move towards imposing a law that would give the government power to decide whether to arrest leaders wanted by the ICC. Bapela also said that the government was writing to the ICC to request a waiver.

As these potential loopholes surface, it begs the question: Will Putin be arrested by the ICC?

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“As long as Putin is a sitting head of state, it will be unlikely that he would be brought forward to the ICC,” Anthony Arend, a professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told Semafor. He added that there’s “zero chance” Putin would be brought in front of a criminal tribunal.


Arend suggested that the only ways Putin would face an arrest was if he stepped down, if a coup was staged to remove him from power, or if his term ended and he did not get reelected.

Even so, Putin could remain safe in Russia, or –– like in the case of South Africa –– possibly enter into an agreement that would grant him immunity and not risk a political fallout between countries.

However, the arrest warrant imposed by the ICC sets an important precedent, Arend said. “It’s a very narrowly focused charge,” he said, citing allegations of the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia –– which Moscow had previously admitted to doing.

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  • Experts discussing whether Putin could be prosecuted for alleged war crimes told Slate that it would very difficult to “drag Putin before a tribunal” unless he lost the war or was forced out of power.