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Armenia to join International Criminal Court sparks tensions with Russia

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Armenia’s parliament has voted to approve the nation’s accession to the International Criminal Court (ICC), setting the stage for heightened tensions with its traditional ally, Russia.

The decision to ratify the ICC’s founding Rome Statute on Tuesday signifies Armenia’s commitment to the court’s jurisdiction in The Hague, a move that has irked Russia, a country whose president is currently under an ICC arrest warrant.

The vote, with 60 deputies in favor and 22 against, underlines the growing divide between Moscow and Yerevan, which has been exacerbated by Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine and its perceived inaction during Azerbaijan’s recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region historically controlled by ethnic Armenians, most of whom have since fled.

The ICC had previously issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, alleging war crimes in Ukraine and the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. Should Putin set foot on ICC member territory, he could face arrest.

The Kremlin swiftly criticized Armenia’s decision, labeling it “incorrect” and expressing concern for the country’s leadership. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, stated, “Armenia is our ally, a friendly country, our partner… But at the same time, we will have additional questions for the current leadership of Armenia… We still believe it is a wrong decision.”

Armenia’s sense of disappointment in Russia has been growing, exacerbated by Azerbaijan’s seizure of Nagorno-Karabakh. The situation escalated after a nine-month blockade of food and fuel supplies to the enclave, which Russian peacekeepers did not alleviate.

Armenia claims that its ICC move is intended to address alleged war crimes committed by Azerbaijan during the protracted conflict, although it’s important to note that ICC jurisdiction will not be retroactive. The decision will take effect after a 60-day period of ratification.

Armenia asserts that joining the ICC aligns with its commitment to addressing justice and accountability in ongoing regional conflicts, even as it navigates the complexities of its relationship with Russia.

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