Arresting Putin is ‘declaration of war’, Ramaphosa warns
Arresting Vladimir Putin would amount to a declaration of war on Russia, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote in court papers released on Tuesday as the country wrangles over hosting the Russian leader.
Putin has been invited to a BRICS summit in Johannesburg next month but is the target of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant — a provision that Pretoria as an ICC member would be expected to implement were he to attend.
South Africa’s diplomatic dilemma is playing out in court, where the leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), is trying to force the government’s hand and ensure the Kremlin leader is held and handed over to the ICC if he steps foot in the country.
But in a responding affidavit, Ramaphosa described the DA’s application as “irresponsible” and said national security was at stake.
“Russia has made it clear that arresting its sitting President would be a declaration of war,” he said.
“It would be inconsistent with our Constitution to risk engaging in war with Russia,” he said, adding that this would go against his duty to protect the country.
The arrest would also undermine a South African-led mission to end the war in Ukraine and “foreclose any peaceful solution”, Ramaphosa wrote.
South Africa is seeking an exemption under ICC rules based on the fact that enacting the arrest could threaten the “security, peace and order of the state,” Ramaphosa said.