South Africa is planning to roll out the red carpet for Russian despot Vladimir Putin despite an international arrest warrant against him over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
In the latest indication of South Africa’s deepening ties with Moscow, Pretoria is set to welcome the Russian president for the BRICS bloc summit in August.
It comes after the country initially asked Putin to attend the emerging economies summit, made up of Russia, South Africa, Brazil, India and China, over zoom due to legal concerns – an invitation the Kremlin rejected.
But now, The Times reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s deputy is heading up a committee to examine international and domestic laws as well as the Rome statute which created the International Criminal Court.
It was the ICC who issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader in March – a move which Putin condemned as ‘outrageous’.
The ICC called for Putin’s arrest on March 17 and accused the despot of committing war crimes by abducting Ukrainian children from their homes and deporting them to Russia to be given to Russian families.
South Africa has so far refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while it has not shown support for sanctions imposed on Moscow.
Despite initial legal advice stating South Africa was obliged to act on Putin’s arrest warrant, Zane Dangor, the country’s foreign ministry director-general said: ‘We have a legal opinion, but another independent legal opinion has been sought so that we make sure of the action that will be taken.’
Considered one of Moscow’s closest allies on the continent, South Africa says it is impartial and has abstained from voting on U.N. resolutions on the war.
News of Putin’s potential trip to South Africa comes after accusations were made from the United States that Pretoria covertly supplied weapons to Moscow – a move that would break with its professed neutrality.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov firmly ruled out any indication that Putin would attend the BRICS bloc summit virtually – more than 6,000 miles away.
While Pretoria continues to be friendly with Putin, the Russian dictator and Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky have both agreed to separate meetings with a delegation of African heads of state to discuss a possible plan to end the war in Ukraine, according to President Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa spoke with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts by phone over the weekend, a spokesperson for his office said earlier this week. They agreed to host ‘an African leaders’ peace mission’ in Moscow and Kyiv respectively.
The leaders of Zambia, Senegal, Congo, Uganda and Egypt plan to join Mr Ramaphosa on the mission, the president said. He added that Mr Putin and Mr Zelensky gave him the go-ahead to ‘commence the preparations’.
But Ramaphosa’s talks of peace come amid a visit to Moscow by Lieutenant-General Lawrence Mbatha, the chief of South Africa’s army, for talks ‘on combat readiness’.
Irina Filatova, professor emeritus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and a leading expert on Pretoria-Moscow relations, told The Times that the visit was propaganda by Moscow to show they are not isolated by ‘helpless western laws’.
She said that to be an ally of Russia, you have to show you do not accept the laws made by the West.
Ukraine’s military today said it had made new territorial gains amid heavy fighting around the eastern city of Bakhmut, despite being outgunned and outnumbered by Russian forces.
In the past week, Kyiv has said it has stepped up pressure on Moscow’s troops to the north and south of Bakhmut. Russian mercenary forces say they have moved forward inside the city, where Kyiv has acknowledged they have made small advances.
Ukrainian officials have signalled that the advances around Bakhmut are not part of a broader counteroffensive planned by Kyiv to push back the Russian forces.
Source : Daily Mail