Lula rows back from comments that Brazil would not arrest Putin

By Nidhi Verma

(Reuters) -President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rowed back on Monday from saying Brazil would ignore a war crimes arrest warrant for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, while saying he would review Brazil’s membership in the International Criminal Court.

On Saturday, while in India for a Group of 20 nations meeting, Lula told a local interviewer that there was “no way” Putin would be arrested if he attended next year’s summit, which is due to be held in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which obliges members to comply with its arrest warrants. The court issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest in March, accusing him of the war crime of deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.

Russia has denied its forces have engaged in war crimes or forcibly taken Ukrainian children.

Putin has yet to travel abroad since the ICC sought his arrest, notably missing a summit of the BRICS group in South Africa last month as well as this month’s G20 summit in India. He also skipped the G20 summit in Bali last year.

“If Putin decides to join (next year’s summit), it is the judiciary’s power to decide (on a possible arrest) and not my government,” Lula said at a press conference on Monday, rowing back from his earlier remarks.

He would review why Brazil had signed up to the ICC treaty, he said: “I want to know why the U.S, India and China didn’t sign the ICC treaty and why our country signed it.”

Lula’s earlier comments that Putin would not be arrested had drawn criticism in Brazil.

Oliver Stuenkel, a professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo, said on social media site X that the comments were “damaging and unnecessary”.

“Rather than projecting himself as the elder statesman, Lula came across as inexperienced and ignorant,” Stuenkel wrote.

Lula has sought unsuccessfully to mediate peace in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and has said that U.S. President Joe Biden could have done more to prevent the conflict.

Russia invaded Ukraine last year and claims to have annexed around a sixth of its territory. Ukraine says any peace agreement that would leave Russian troops on Ukrainian soil would reward Putin for his decision to invade. Moscow says there can be no peace unless Ukraine accepts its territorial claims.

(Reporting by Nidhi VermaWriting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Gabriel StargardterEditing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Raju Gopalakrishnan, Peter Graff)