Putin wants to travel to South Africa next month. The host country would prefer he didn’t.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is pushing ahead with plans to attend a summit in South Africa next month, even as the host nation grapples with diplomatic and legal fallout of his expected presence, South Africa’s deputy president said on Friday.
South Africa is scheduled to hold a meeting of BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — in Johannesburg in August. The heads of state from the other four nations are expected to attend, but an international arrest warrant for Mr. Putin has placed South Africa in a quandary.
“It’s a big dilemma for us,” the deputy president, Paul Mashatile, told the South African news website News24. “Of course, we cannot arrest him. It’s almost like you invite your friend to your house, and then arrest them. That’s why for us, his not coming is the best solution.”
The International Criminal Court has accused Mr. Putin of war crimes over his role in the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children. South Africa, a member of the court, is obligated to arrest Mr. Putin if he arrives in the country. Mindful of their warm relations with Russia, South African officials have said they are seeking legal advice in assessing their obligations to the international court.
“The Russians are not happy, though,” Mr. Mashatile said. “They want him to come.”
Mr. Mashatile leads a committee tasked with figuring out how to handle the diplomatic headache. South African officials have pitched several possible solutions, all of which have failed to convince their counterparts in the BRICS nations, Vukani Mde, Mr. Mashatile’s spokesman, said.
A virtual summit was rejected, and so was the possibility of Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, standing in for Mr. Putin. There was also no “unanimous support” for the proposal to move the summit to China, which is not a member of the international court, Mr. Mde said.
Russian officials have pushed back, and are unhappy with the possibility of Mr. Putin being excluded from attending a meeting of heads of state. South Africa, however, is still trying to find a workaround, with its president, Cyril Ramaphosa, continuing to speak with Mr. Putin on the matter, the spokesman said.
“The South African government is very wary of an unprecedented situation of arresting a sitting head of state,” Mr. Mde said.
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