Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has decided not to attend the upcoming BRICS summit in Johannesburg because he does not want to “jeopardize” the talks, a high-ranking South African diplomat said on Thursday.
Putin’s possible visit posed a diplomatic and legal dilemma for South Africa ahead of the meeting that was convened from 22 to 24 August.
The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest – and South Africa would be expected to arrest him if he arrived in the country.
Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa’s office ended the uncertainty on Wednesday when it was announced that Putin would not attend the summit in person. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, will attend the summit on his behalf.
Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s Brics ambassador, said a “joint decision” had been made that Putin would rather join the discussions online.
“Pres. Putin understands the dilemma faced by South Africa. He doesn’t want to jeopardize the summit. He does not want to create problems for South Africa,” said Sooklal during a press conference in Johannesburg.
Pretoria is the current chairman of the Brics group, an acronym for heavyweights Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – a counterweight to Western economic dominance.
South Africa was under heavy local and international pressure not to receive the Russian leader.
Sooklal said that despite Putin’s absence, the government is confident that the talks “will be a success”. The Russian leader will “participate fully in all discussions, even if it is over a distance”.
Putin is wanted over accusations that Russia illegally deported children from Ukraine after it invaded its neighbor in February 2022.