Vladimir Putin has been threatened with arrest in South Africa in the lead-up to a visit expected later this year.
The Opposition Premier of the Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town, said he would order the local police to seize the Russian leader.Alan Winde condemned the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government for pushing ahead to welcome the Russian leader, despite the International Criminal Court ordering his arrest for the forced deportation of Ukrainian children.
Meanwhile, Ukraine said on Friday that it was wrapping up preparations for its long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia and its forces were largely ready.
Oleskii Reznikov, the defence minister, said: “As soon as there is God’s will, the weather and a decision by commanders, we will do it.”
The country faced its heaviest night of Russian missile and drone strikes for almost two months early on Friday, with at least 19 killed.
South Africa is supposed to host the leaders of Russia, China and other members of the Brics bloc of nations for a summit in August.However, Winde said pressing ahead with the invitation would be “unacceptable and deplorable”.
He said: “Putin has consistently and violently eroded the freedoms of the Ukrainian people and those in his own country who dare take a principled stand against his brutal actions.”
The ICC warrant obliges South Africa to arrest Putin if he visits the country, but the ANC has a long-standing friendship with Moscow. Fikile Mbalula, secretary general of the ANC, said earlier this week that as far as the party was concerned, Putin “can come here any time”.
The country has also defied an ICC warrant in the past, refusing to arrest Omar al-Bashir, the former Sudanese dictator, in 2015.Winde said locally funded police in the province would act if the government did not order national police to act. ANC supporters mocked Winde, of the Democratic Alliance party, for over-reaching his powers.
Pretoria has not issued a detailed itinerary for the summit but has said it will be held in Gauteng province, so it is unclear if attendees would be visiting the Western Cape anyway. Winde said he would have police ready at the airport and would liaise with Interpol and the ICC if necessary, to make the arrest.
The Daily Telegraph, London