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ICC arrest warrant for Putin a big dilemma for South African government

Vincent Magwenya, South African Presidential spokesperson   -  
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RODGER BOSCH/AFP or licensors

South Africa

South Africa said on Wednesday that an international arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin had complicated matters for the country ahead of a BRICS summit it is due to host in August.

"All heads of state would be expected to attend the summit. But now we have a spanner in the works in the form of this ICC warrant," said President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya.

The bloc of five leading emerging economies groups together Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Pretoria has close ties with Moscow, has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and also hosted a controversial joint military exercises with Russia and China, that coincided with the one-year anniversary of the start of the war.

But South Africa faces a diplomatic dilemma following the issuing of the arrest warrant. As a member of the ICC, it would be expected to arrest if Putin steps foot in the country.

The Russian leader is charged with ordering the unlawful removal of Ukrainian children and transporting them to Russia during the ongoing war.

South Africa says it is looking into ways to dealing with the issue.

"What that dictates is that there be further engagements, in terms of how that is going to be managed and those engagements are underway. Once they've been concluded, the necessary announcements will be made," said Magwenya.

Local newspaper, the City Press, suggested that Pretoria may decide to hold a hybrid meeting with some leaders physically attending while others, like Putin, attend virtually.

The leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has called for the Russian president to be arrested if he does come to South Africa and for the ICC to force the government's hand.

But leftist parties, including the South African Communist Party -- a close ally of the ruling African National Congress -- have urged the government to welcome Putin and instead pull out of the ICC.

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