Vladimir Putin has signed an order to have Russia withdrawn from the International Criminal Court (ICC) amid calls for his military to be probed for war crimes over air strikes backing President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the annexation of Crimea was classified as "Russian military occupation".
Russia was concerned about the ICC jurisdiction in Syria, where its forces have been repeatedly accused of carrying out war crimes in recent months. HRW and other organisations have called for the ICC to investigate events in Syria.
On Tuesday, the court, which is based in The Hague, published a report that recognised the annexation of Crimea as a military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and classified it as an occupation.
“According to information received, the situation in the Crimea and Sevastopol is equivalent to the international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian federation,” a preliminary report from the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated.
Russia has insisted that Crimea voluntarily joined Russia after a referendum, but international observers say the referendum was hastily organised, did not meet international standards, and was conducted as Russian troops swept through the peninsula. Having initially denied vehemently that Russian troops were involved in the takeover, Putin later admitted it.
“The Russian federation employed members of its armed forces to gain control over parts of the territory of Ukraine without the consent of the government of Ukraine.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the decision to withdraw Russia's signature had been taken "in the national interest" and was a formality as it didn't change anything as far as jurisdiction was concerned.
Moscow never ratified the treaty, which it signed in 2000, meaning it never became a member subject to its jurisdiction, and with good reason.
Before this, the ICC angered Moscow and Putin by examining allegations of war crimes committed by Russian forces against Georgian civilians during the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.
Read more about Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008 -