Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, will be attending the BRICS Summit in August this year, on invitation by the South African government. BRICS is a group of the world’s biggest emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and late-addition South Africa.
The International Criminal Court in the Hague has issued a warrant of arrest for the Russian leader for war crimes stemming from the conflict with Ukraine that started over a year ago on 28 February 2022.
The ICC warrant means that South Africa, a signatory to the ICC, will be obliged to arrest Mr Putin and hand him over if he sets foot on South African soil. The war has caused economic suffering around the world and has impacted imports, exports and the supply of gas and wheat. Significant political and economic challenges for African countries were the result. Already reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war between Russia and Ukraine and its economic fallout brought more pain as high food and fuel prices worsened the political instability many countries are facing.
South Africa has remained neutral in its stance on the war – much to the dismay of the U.S. and Brussels. Analysts have said the flurry of diplomatic activity comes as the West and Russia both seek South Africa’s support regarding the war in Ukraine.
Historically, the South African government has strong ties with Russia. The country provided a refuge for political exiles during apartheid and provided training and tactical weapons to uMkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the now-ruling party African National Congress, during the liberation struggle.
South Africa’s International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor has said that the ICC, to which South Africa is a signatory, has not been “even-handed” as an arbiter in international affairs. Ms Pandor said while she has not said the ICC is “wrong” in issuing the warrant of arrest against Mr Putin, she expressed deep misgivings regarding the international court’s decision, arguing that the ICC turns a blind eye to other global atrocities.
Meanwhile, the South African opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has said that the Russian leader is “welcome to attend the BRICS summit”. Party leader Julius Malema said that Russia has always been a “friend of South Africa”.
READ ALSO: Russia-Ukraine War: ICC issues arrest warrant for Putin over alleged war crimes
The European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell has urged the South African government to use its ties with Russia to convince Moscow to stop its war on Ukraine, allAfrica reports.
Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said a bid by any country to arrest Mr Putin on a warrant issued by the ICC would be “taken as a declaration of war”, Deutsche Welle reports.
The South African government is meanwhile taking legal advice on Mr Putin’s visit, News24 reports.
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