Russia would consider arresting Putin to be a declaration of war, Ramaphosa says
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said a court order that would force him to commit to arresting Russian leader Vladimir Putin if he attends a BRICS summit in Johannesburg next month would be premature, and effecting such a ruling would be tantamount to a declaration of war.
The government is aware of its legal obligations and is seeking ways to deal with the warrant, Ramaphosa said in an answering affidavit to the DA’s application. He argued that until Putin lands in the country — and he may never do so — he is under no obligation to pronounce on the matter.
“Any obligation to arrest has not arisen,” Ramaphosa said. “It would potentially arise if President Putin were to come to South Africa.”
South Africa has sought to get around the warrant by either moving the summit to China or hosting it virtually, but both options were vetoed by other BRICS members. Putin has insisted on leading his nation’s delegation to the gathering, according to local media reports, placing South Africa in a conundrum.
The government is consulting with the ICC in light of its concerns about arresting Putin, including that it could trigger conflict and compromise an African leaders’ initiative to broker peace in Ukraine, according to Ramaphosa.
“Russia has made it clear that the arrest of President Putin would be a declaration of war against Russia,” he said. “The ICC itself has expressed concern over Russia’s nuclear threat, following the arrest warrant. South Africa has no capacity to declare or wage war with Russia. Nor does it wish to.”
Pretoria drew international criticism in 2015 when it refused to execute an ICC arrest warrant for then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who had been indicted for war crimes and genocide, while he was attending a meeting of African leaders in Johannesburg. South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the government had acted unlawfully and the ICC said it failed to comply with its international obligations.