Russia warned South Africa it would consider Putin’s arrest at BRICS summit a “declaration of war”

Russia has threatened South Africa with war if Vladimir Putin is arrested on an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant at the BRICS summit, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an affidavit, Bloomberg reports.

“South Africa has obvious problems in complying with the request to arrest and extradite Putin. Russia has made it clear that arresting its president would be a declaration of war”, he said.

Ramaphosa noted that South Africa cannot and does not want to wage war with Russia, and the risk of entering the conflict is “incompatible with the country’s constitution”. He recalled that the leadership is legally obliged to protect “national sovereignty” and ensure “peace and security in the republic”.

Ramaphosa also emphasized that Putin’s arrest would undermine the South African-led mission to end the war in Ukraine and “would rule out any peaceful solution”.

The president was testifying in the Gauteng High Court in connection with a lawsuit by the opposition Democratic Alliance party, which has demanded that the country’s government be obliged to execute an arrest warrant for Putin. Ramaphosa wanted his testimony to remain confidential, but the court ordered it to be made public.

Earlier, South African authorities made several attempts to dissuade Putin from traveling to the BRICS summit to be held in the republic on August 22-24. Ramaphosa most recently asked the Kremlin to send Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov instead of the president, but was rebuffed. Negotiations on the format of Putin’s participation continue.

“We realize that we are bound by the Rome Statute (the main document governing the ICC. – TMT). But we cannot invite someone and then arrest him. You can understand our dilemma. We will be happy if Putin does not come”, said South African Vice President Paul Mashatile.

In an attempt to get out of the situation, the republic’s authorities suggested moving the summit to China, but were rebuffed by India and Brazil. The idea to hold the event in a virtual format did not suit four BRICS members.

The Kremlin has not yet confirmed that Putin will go to the summit. The decision on this issue was postponed after the mutiny of Wagner PMC chief Yevgeny Prigozhin for fear of internal destabilization and a coup, three Russian officials told The Moscow Times.

According to one of them, the Kremlin and the Foreign Ministry are preparing two basic scenarios for Russia’s participation in the BRICS summit: the first is with Putin, the second is that the president remains in Moscow and speaks via videoconference, but a delegation of officials still flies to South Africa.

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