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Ramaphosa Heads to Russia After Putin-BRICS Decision

FILE - FILE PHOTO: BRICS leaders including Russia's Vladimir Putin and South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa pose for as they arrive for the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Brazil November 14, 2019.

JOHANNESBURG — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to travel to Russia for the two-day Russia-Africa summit starting July 27 — a visit coming after the nation faced pressure and a high court ruled in favor of the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin if he attended the August BRICS summit.

Though the government announced last week that "by mutual agreement" Putin would not attend the BRICS summit, a local high court on Friday ordered that Putin be arrested if he came to South Africa, following the directive of the International Criminal Court.

The ICC's arrest warrant for Putin accuses him of the war crime of illegally deporting children from Ukraine.

Moscow has said the warrant is legally void as Russia is not a member of the ICC.

Amnesty International, among other human rights groups, welcomed the court order.

"South Africa needs to continue leading in the fight for international justice for all victims of crime under international law," Shenilla Mohamed, Amnesty International South Africa executive director told VOA.

"International mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court as well as domestic efforts of states like South Africa are essential for truth, justice and reparations for victims of grave crimes everywhere," he said.

Democratic Alliance party leader John Steenhuisen also lauded the success in blocking Putin from coming to South Africa.

The DA had taken legal action, launching the court application, to force the government to arrest Putin if he were to attend the summit.

"I think it's great news for South Africa because it averts a potential international crisis that would have had a reverberation on the domestic situation in South Africa," Steenhuisen said.

He added though, he was "less than pleased that the government equivocated so long around what its position will be in upholding its international obligations in terms of the Rome Statute and the domesticated version of it."

Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will instead represent Russia, while Putin will join the summit virtually.

Russia-Africa Summit

The South African government said Ramaphosa and other African heads of state, who are part of the African leaders’ peace mission aimed at ending conflict in Ukraine, will hold talks with President Putin.

Its statement also said the Russia-Africa summit aims to bolster cooperation and partnership between Russia and Africa.

Security, politics, trade and the fight against terrorism are some of the areas to be discussed.

More than 40 countries have expressed interest in joining the BRICS group — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — South Africa said last week. The question of how far and fast the bloc will expand will top of the summit agenda.

Ramaphosa will be accompanied by two ministers to Moscow.

Some information in the article came from Reuters.