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S.Africa Says Putin ICC Warrant Complicates BRICS Summit

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speak during a Russia-Africa Summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Oct. 23, 2019.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa said on Wednesday an international arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine war was a "spanner in the works" ahead of a BRICS summit in the country in August.

Pretoria, which has close ties with Moscow, has been faced with a diplomatic dilemma since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin in March.

The Russian president is due to attend a summit of the BRICS - a bloc which groups together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - in South Africa in August.

But the host nation is a member of the ICC and would be expected to make the arrest if Putin steps foot in the country.

"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," Vincent Magwenya, President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesman, told a press briefing on Wednesday.

"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."

The ICC warrant against Putin stems from accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children.

South Africa has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine which has largely isolated Moscow on the international stage, saying it wants to stay neutral and prefers dialogue to end the war.

Earlier this year, it held a controversial joint military exercise with Russia and China, which critics cite as evidence of a tilt towards the Kremlin.

The leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance has called for Putin to be arrested 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 the Russian leader and pull out of the ICC instead.