May 26, 2024

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Sputnik/Artem Geodakyan/Pool via Reuters via third party

South African government officials are working to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to not attend a summit this August, where he might face arrest for alleged war crimes pursuant to an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, according to the the South African outlet The Sunday Times.

South Africa is a member of the ICC, and would be obliged to honor the arrest warrant for Putin, which targets the Russian president for his alleged involvement in the illegal kidnapping of Ukrainian children.

The South African officials are reportedly trying to have Putin join the BRICS summit—which is taking place in Cape Town with officials from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—remotely via videoconference in order to avoid a diplomatic conundrum.

“We have no option not to arrest Putin. If he arrives, we will have to arrest him,” one government official said.

The touchy subject has left the Kremlin fretting behind the scenes about whether perceived allies might turn on Russia and arrest Putin in accordance with the arrest warrant, The Moscow Times previously reported.

Already, officials in Austria, which has sought to maintain neutrality as Russia wages war in Ukraine, and in Armenia, which is a member of a Russian-led military alliance, have suggested they will honor the arrest warrant.

South Africa’s decision to honor the arrest warrant appears to waver from its previous treatment of Putin’s war in Ukraine. South Africa’s ruling party has refused to condemn the war in Ukraine, opting to abstain from a vote on a United Nations resolution that would lambast Russia for invading Ukraine and demand it withdraw troops. Pretoria has also not supported sanctions against Russia. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that sanctions against Russia hurt “bystander” countries.

South Africa’s stance on the war and relationship with Russia in recent months has stirred up consternation in Washington, D.C. When the country conducted drills with Russia around the one year mark of the 2022 invasion into Ukraine, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration has concerns about the relationship.

“The United States has concerns about any country… exercising with Russia as Russia wages a brutal war against Ukraine,” Jean-Pierre said in January.

But where South Africa has represented a lack of isolation for Putin before, now stands an impasse.

The Kremlin has not been clear about Putin’s plans to attend the BRICS summit, The Sunday Times reported.

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