Austria will arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he visits the country, pursuant to the arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karolina Edtstadler, Austria’s Minister for the European Union and Constitutional Affairs said this week.
“Austria will comply with its obligations under international law and criminal law,” Edtstadler said in an interview with Tagesspiegel. “If he sets foot on Austrian soil, an arrest must be made.”
Austria is a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC. The ICC issued the arrest warrant last month over alleged war crimes in Ukraine as Putin has been accused of illegally kidnapping Ukrainian children. The court doesn’t have power to enforce its warrants, so any next steps will only come from other countries being willing to arrest Putin.
The move comes as Austria has come under mounting pressure to reassess its military neutrality during Russia’s war in Ukraine. Austria has condemned the invasion and supported sanctions against Russia, but has avoided military participation.
Austria is part of a growing list of countries that have indicated they will be abiding by the arrest warrant. There are signs that even those allied with Russia in the past, such as Armenia, which is a member of the Russian-led defense organization the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), are on the path to enforcing the arrest warrant. Gagik Melkonyan, a deputy of the ruling Civil Contract party in the Armenian parliament, indicated late last month that Putin would be arrested if he comes to Armenia.
The move for Austria, despite its militarily neutral stance, may not come entirely as a surprise. The Austrian Ministry of Justice reaffirmed its observation of ICC decisions late last month.
“Arrest warrants issued by the court must be executed, and persons wanted by the court must be arrested.”
The growing rally around arresting Putin comes as Kremlin ranks appear to be increasingly uneasy at international efforts to shun Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed his distaste for encouragements to Russian allies to degrade relations with Moscow.
“If… Western countries will try to engage in threats, blackmail, will force our allies to undermine relations with Russia to the detriment of their own national interests, then, of course, we will not hide our attitude towards such attempts,” Lavrov said.