In a significant development, Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided not to attend the upcoming BRICS summit in South Africa, scheduled for August. This decision was made “by mutual agreement” as confirmed by South Africa’s presidency on Wednesday.
To ensure Russia’s representation at the Johannesburg summit, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be attending alongside the leaders of Brazil, India, China, and South Africa, according to a statement released by the presidency.
The host country, South Africa, faced a challenging situation due to its membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Theoretically, if Putin were to attend the summit, South Africa would be obliged to arrest him based on an ICC arrest warrant for alleged war crimes. The warrant, issued in March, accuses Putin of illegally deporting children from Ukraine.
Russia has contended the validity of the warrant, asserting that it holds no legal weight as the country is not a member of the ICC. While Russia has openly acknowledged its program of bringing Ukrainian children to the country, it presents it as a humanitarian effort to protect orphans and those affected by the conflict.
Recently revealed court documents showed that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa sought permission from the ICC to refrain from arresting Putin, fearing that such an action would escalate tensions and be interpreted as a declaration of war.
When asked about the situation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that Russia did not explicitly state that arresting Putin on an ICC warrant would lead to “war.” However, Peskov suggested that the potential consequences of infringing on Putin’s rights were well understood by all parties involved.
South Africa, aiming to maintain its neutrality in the Ukraine conflict, has faced criticism from Western powers due to its perceived friendliness towards Russia. The African National Congress, which governs South Africa, has a longstanding historical alliance with Russia.
As preparations for the BRICS summit continue, the absence of President Putin will undoubtedly shape the discussions and outcomes of the gathering. The involvement of Foreign Minister Lavrov as Russia’s representative will carry the weight of Moscow’s interests during the summit.