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ICC Issues War Crimes Warrants for Top Russian Officials

June 26, 20242:10

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for former Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, accusing them of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the conflict in Ukraine. William Pomeranz, Director of the Kennan Institute, comments on the significance of the ICC’s decision. He provides insights on the symbolism of the decision, its practical impact, and how Russia and Ukraine have reacted to the news.


Video Transcript

  • This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

    Sergei Shoigu up until a year ago was the head of the Department of Defense in Russia. So he was the primary person who was in charge of the Russian military. Gerasimov is a major general in the Russian military and is chief of staff of the Russian army. So these are two very important people who are engaged in the war effort. And suddenly now they can no longer go around the world.

    This sends a message that there are multiple tools in the West toolbox to deal with Putin and with Russia in regards to the war in Ukraine and potential war crimes. And I think that there is a strong probability that this war will end not on the battlefield but in the courtroom, because these indictments from the ICC, attempts to update crimes of aggression, these are all occurring around the world, and this will entrap Putin and the Russians for years to come, because they will not be able to go to foreign cities. 

    Russia will dismiss these indictments because it is not subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC. And they will simply say that this is just another attempt by the West to interfere in Russia's external and internal affairs. Ukraine will welcome this and will welcome the fact that even more Western institutions are rallying around Ukraine and thethe attempt for Ukraine to defend its territory. 

    And so I think this will be yet another sign that Ukraine is making inroads in Western institutions. and against Russia, that will have consequences in the long term.


William E. Pomeranz

William E. Pomeranz

Senior Fellow; Former Director, Kennan Institute

William Pomeranz, Senior Fellow and former Director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, is an expert guide to the complexities of political and economic developments in Russia, particularly through the lens of law. He leverages extensive, hands-on experience in international and Russian jurisprudence to address a wide range of legal issues, from the development of Russia’s Constitution to human rights law to foreign investment and sanctions. He is also the author of Law and the Russian State: Russia's Legal Evolution from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin (Bloomsbury, 2018).

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The Kennan Institute is the premier US center for advanced research on Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more