Will Putin be arrested if he leaves Russia? Russian leader pulls out of South Africa summit over ICC warrant

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The Russian president has pulled out of a planned appearance in South Africa next month after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest in March

Vladimir Putin is no longer expected to make an in-person appearance at a high-profile summit in South Africa amid fears that he may be arrested upon entering the country.

The Russian leader ended months of speculation over his possible attendance at the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Johannesberg, which is due to take place next month. It comes after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest in March over charges of alleged war crimes throughout the Ukraine war.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa held consultations with the other members of the BRICS group over the situation posed. The summit is now due to be attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with the Kremlin confirming that Putin will attend only via video-link.

The incident has offered up questions over Putin's status as a wanted man by the ICC's standards, as well as the court's jurisdiction in arresting the Russian president.

Here's everything you need to know about the situation as it stands.

Will Putin be arrested if he leaves Russian soil?

Technically, no - Putin will not be arrested if he leaves Russia. However, if he leaves Russia to visit a country which is a state party to the 'Rome Statute', and therefore a de-facto member of the ICC, he may face arrest upon arrival.

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For example, while Putin rarely travels for diplomatic reasons outside of Russia, he has made appearances to visit President Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus since the beginning of the war in Ukraine ahead of the subsequent ICC warrant being issued. He is also scheduled to visit the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara next month.

Neither Turkey nor Belarus are state parties to the 'Rome Statue', and therefore the ICC has no jurisdiction in those countries and the arrest warrant will not be carried out. However, South Africa is a signatory of the ICC statute.

This means that by attending in person, South African authorities would be obligated to arrest Putin in relation to the war crime charges upon him arriving in the country. However, the issue has caused a headache for President Ramaphosa.

In a confidential affidavit unsealed by a High Court on Tuesday (18 July), Ramaphosa said: “I must highlight, for the sake of transparency, that South Africa has obvious problems with executing a request to arrest and surrender President Putin. Russia has made it clear that arresting its sitting president would be a declaration of war. It would be inconsistent with our Constitution to risk engaging in war with Russia."

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What charges does Putin face from the ICC?

Announced in March, the ICC confirmed that it had set out charges relating to war crimes against both Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian Commissioner for Children's Rights. The ICC said that it believed that the two were responsible for the "unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation."

The transportation of children from Ukraine to Russia following the outbreak of the war was a huge talking point. The ICC alleges the pair oversaw the movement of "at least hundreds of Ukrainian children taken from orphanages and children’s care homes" onto Russian soil in a direct violation of the Geneva Convention.

Moscow has claimed that the ICC warrant is legally void as the court has no jurisdiction in Russia. The Kremlin has also said that the movement of children from Ukraine to Russia was a humanitarian effort to protect abandoned children and orphans from the war zones in the country.

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