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Putin will not attend BRICS summit to avoid ICC arrest warrant

(left to right) Presidents Xi Jinping of China, Narendra Modi of India, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Michel Temer of Brazil, Vladimir Putin of Russia at the 2018 BRICS summit. Photo: kremlin.ru
(left to right) Presidents Xi Jinping of China, Narendra Modi of India, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Michel Temer of Brazil, Vladimir Putin of Russia at the 2018 BRICS summit. Photo: kremlin.ru

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the BRICS summit in South Africa in order to avoid an ICC arrest warrant. Instead, Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.

Therefore, the Summit will be attended by the leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

This announcement comes one day after Ramaphosa affirmed efforts were underway to avoid Putin’s arrest if he did come. Earlier, South African officials said they were negotiating this very option, where Lavrov would replace Russian President Putin. South Africa is obliged to arrest Putin if he steps on its soil, as it is a signatory of 

Background: 

  • The ICC issued warrants in March for Putin and a Russian children’s rights official over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. As a member of the ICC, South Africa would be obligated to arrest Putin if he enters the country. However, South Africa has granted diplomatic immunity to all officials attending the BRICS summit, potentially allowing Putin to travel there without apprehension.
  • South Africa has vacillated in its response to the quandary of the ICC warrant to arrest Russian President Putin and Human Rights Commissioner Lvova-Belova, putting Putin’s potential BRICS attendance in doubt.
  • Upon the ICC’s ruling, South Africa announced it would consult Russia on the matter of whether the ICC warrant would apply and invited Putin to attend via Zoom.
  • Ramaphosa said back in March that South Africa should withdraw from the International Criminal Court, but later his office announced it was a mistake.
  • This is not the first attempt by South Africa to withdraw from the ICC. The state tried to do so in 2016 after it ignored an arrest warrant for former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2015.
  • South Africa has been accused of supporting Russia in its war against Ukraine, despite claiming neutrality, by supplying weapons and ammunition and participating in naval driils with Russia and China.
  • The BRICS bloc consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Its annual summit is scheduled to take place in Johannesburg in August. Khan’s statements reflect the delicate position South Africa finds itself in as the ICC pushes for Putin’s arrest amid diplomatic protocol.
  • Ukrainian officials and NGOs have greeted the issuance of the ICC arrest warrant for Putin and Lvova-Belova, but still maintain the need for a separate tribunal for Russian war crimes.

Related: 

  • South Africa must honor arrest warrant, ICC says ahead of planned Putin visit
  • Arresting Putin would be “declaration of war” – South Africa president
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