By Chris King •
Published: 19 Jul 2023 • 5:00
Image of Cyril Ramaphosa with Vladimir Putin.
Credit: Ramil Sitdikov, RIA Novosti/Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa insisted that the hypothetical arrest of Vladimir Putin should he attend the BRICS summit would be tantamount to a declaration of war on Russia.
A little more than a month remains before the 15th BRICS summit, which will be held in Johannesburg this year from August 22 to 24. An arrest warrant for the Russian President was issued in March by the International Criminal Court.
Pretoria has done its best to avoid a difficult situation, either by offering to move the summit to China, or by inviting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov instead of Putin. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is confident that the arrest of the Russian president would be a declaration of war.
‘Russia has made it clear that the arrest of President Putin will be a declaration of war’, Ramaphosa said when asked to comment on the arrest warrant for the Russian president, according to gazeta.ru, citing Bloomberg.
In a response to the South African Supreme Court in Gauteng, the leader explained: ‘It would be inconsistent with our constitution to risk going to war with Russia. I have constitutional obligations to protect the national sovereignty, peace and security of the Republic’.
Ramaphosa previously said that until Putin landed in the country – and he may never do so – he was under no obligation to speak out about it. ‘There were no obligations to arrest. Potentially, this could arise if President Putin came to South Africa’, the politician admitted.
Initially, the South African president insisted that his position on the matter be kept secret by the court in order to maintain confidentiality.
However, on July 18, the Supreme Court of South Africa ordered the release of Ramaposa’s confidential written response to the court regarding the demand of the opposition Democratic Alliance Party to oblige the government of the country to comply with the ICC’s arrest request.
The Republic of South Africa tried to circumvent the legal requirements by either moving the summit to China or holding it online, but other BRICS members vetoed both of those options.
At the end of May, the South African government announced that the participants in the BRICS meetings – namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – would have diplomatic immunity.
The corresponding document was signed by Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor. Immunity means that a person is not subject to the jurisdiction of the host state and cannot be arrested or detained.
Ramaphosa’s proposal that the Russian delegation to the BRICS summit be headed by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and not Putin was rejected by Moscow.
The Kremlin has not yet determined the format of Vladimir Putin’s participation in the summit, whether face-to-face or by correspondence, via video link. ‘After the final decision is made, we will inform you about it’, Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin press secretary told TASS on July 14.
South Africa already faced international condemnation when it refused to arrest then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on an ICC warrant in 2015.
Al-Bashir was charged with war crimes and genocide. At the time, the ICC stated that Pretoria had not fulfilled its international obligations.
In March of this year, the ICC issued an arrest warrant in March for Putin and children’s rights ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova. Both were accused of ‘illegal deportation of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia’. Moscow responded by stressing that the jurisdiction of the ICC does not extend to the Russian Federation.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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