South Africa has warned President Vladimir Putin not to come to the BRICS summit in August, as he will be arrested if he does, South Africa’s Sunday Times reported on May 1.
"We have no option not to arrest Putin," a government official told The Sunday Times. "If he comes here, we will be forced to detain him."
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 16 for the illegal deportation of at least 100 Ukrainian children. Pretoria has been trying to ignore the order, despite being a signatory to the Rome Statute that set up the ICC and having written its obligations into the country’s constitution.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last week that Pretoria would pull out of the ICC in order to allow Putin’s visit to what will be a key meeting for the Russian president in his efforts to build a non-aligned alliance amongst the leading emerging markets (EMs). Embarrassingly, Ramaphosa had to walk back his statements in less than 24 hours after the ANC denied a decision to exit the ICC had been taken.
The government has tried to withdraw from the ICC before, but the Supreme Court ruled that the government doesn't have the authority to change the constitution with a simple vote.
South Africa is one of Russia’s strongest allies in Africa. It is suffering from a debilitating energy crisis and is hoping Russia will build a new nuclear power station (NPP) to solve the problem.
A special government commission has concluded that the country has no choice but to arrest Putin if he sets foot on South African soil.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin has been non-committal about how Putin plans to attend the summit, and it remains in talks with Pretoria.
"Of course, we will take part in the summit to be held in South Africa. Of course, this will be preceded by our bilateral contacts with the South Africans, we will clarify their position," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in late April.
The South African authorities have no choice and if they do not, it violates not only international law but also the laws of South Africa. The possibility of an exemption from the ICC jurisdiction before Putin's possible visit is not feasible, as there simply isn't enough time.
Attending the summit alongside the leaders of South Africa, China, India and Brazil would have been a significant diplomatic coup for Putin, as well as his first major foreign trip since he ordered Russian troops into Ukraine.
As bne IntelliNews reported, Putin is in the process of building a BRICS bloc to unite the leading EMs into a political and trade bloc independent of Western institutions as part of his vision of a multipolar world.