South Africa says Putin agreed not to attend BRICS summit


Johannesburg (Reuters) –Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the summit of the BRICS group of emerging economies in South Africa in August “by mutual agreement”, South Africa’s presidency said on Wednesday.

Russia will instead be represented by its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Johannesburg summit, alongside the leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa, the presidency said in a statement.

South Africa faced a dilemma in hosting the summit because, as a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), it would theoretically be required to arrest Putin for alleged war crimes if he were to attend.

The ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for Putin, accusing him of the war crime of illegally deporting children from Ukraine.

Moscow has said the warrant is legally void as Russia is not a member of the ICC.

Russia has not concealed a programme under which it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, but presents it as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in the war zone.

A local court submission published on Tuesday showed that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had asked permission from the ICC not to arrest Putin because to do so would amount to a declaration of war.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin said Russia did not tell South Africa that arresting Putin on an ICC arrest warrant would mean “war”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, however, that everyone understood – without having it explained to them – what an attempt to infringe on Putin’s rights would mean.

South Africa says it is neutral in the Ukraine conflict, but it has been criticised by Western powers for being friendly to Russia, historically a strong ally of the governing African National Congress.

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