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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Armenia votes to join court that issued Putin’s arrest warrant

This pool photograph distributed by Russian state owned agency Sputnik shows Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with the Head of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania Sergei Menyailo in Moscow, on Oct. 2, 2023.    (Mikhail Metzel/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Sara Khojoyan Bloomberg News

Armenia defied outrage from the Kremlin and voted to ratify membership of the International Criminal Court that’s issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Lawmakers voted 60-22 in Armenia’s parliament Tuesday to approve the Rome Statute recognizing the jurisdiction of the court. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s government has argued that ICC membership will allow Armenia to bring war-crimes cases against Azerbaijan over the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and attacks on its own borders.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, last week warned that Russia regarded Armenia’s decision to seek ICC membership as “extremely hostile.” The Foreign Ministry in Moscow also accused Armenia last month of taking “unfriendly steps” including by moving to join The Hague-based court.

Armenia’s recognition of the ICC effectively bars Putin from visiting the country that’s a member of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization defense alliance. The court issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March over allegations related to the abduction of children from occupied areas of Ukraine.

That obliges member states to detain the Russian president if he enters their jurisdiction, an issue that forced Putin to skip the BRICS summit in South Africa in August.

Traditionally allies, tensions between Moscow and Yerevan have surged in recent weeks after Pashinyan accused Russia of failing to fulfill security obligations toward Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan. Armenia is host to Russia’s only foreign military base in the Caucasus region.

The exodus of 100,000 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh has also stoked anger in Armenia after Russian troops deployed as peacekeepers in the region failed to intervene to halt last month’s attack by Azerbaijan to take full control of the territory.

Russia denounced Armenia’s “unacceptable attacks.” The Foreign Ministry warned Pashinyan’s government was “making a huge mistake by deliberately trying to demolish Armenia’s multifaceted and centuries-old ties with Russia” in favor of closer links with the U.S. and the European Union.