Putin Warned to Stay out of South Africa or Risk Arrest

May 2, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been warned he risks arrest if he attends a BRICS summit in South Africa in August.

BRICS is an acronym for five emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

South Africa confirmed Monday that it’s in talks with the Kremlin about allowing Putin to attend the group’s upcoming summit via Zoom rather than in person after the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest in March, accusing him of war crimes in the abduction of Ukrainian children.

Later that same month the U.S. threw its support behind the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The government of South Africa in Pretoria said in a statement, “President Putin will be asked by South Africa to attend a key summit via Zoom and not in person after Pretoria sought legal advice about its obligations to arrest the Russian leader, who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.”

South Africa has refused to condemn the Kremlin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine or support sanctions against Russia.

However, South Africa has signed the ICC’s Rome Statute, which obliges it to comply with the criminal court’s decisions. Hence, the invitation to allow Putin to attend the BRICs summit remotely. 

Last week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed a special government committee to study options for actions by authorities due to the warrant for Putin’s arrest. That was after reports emerged that South Africa was considering withdrawing from the ICC over Putin’s arrest warrant.

“Our view is that we would like this matter of unfair treatment to be properly discussed,” Ramaphosa said on April 25, “but in the meantime, the governing party has decided once again that there should be a pullout, so that will be a matter that will be taken forward.”

Ramaphosa’s office swiftly backtracked on his comments, which included erroneous claims that the ruling African National Conference (ANC) wanted to quit the ICC.

The ANC did want to pull out of the ICC in 2016 but was prevented from doing so by a South African court that found the move unconstitutional.

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