Putin’s absence at the summit has been announced by the South African presidency, ending months of speculation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the summit of the BRICS group of nations in South Africa in August “by mutual agreement”, South Africa’s presidency said on Wednesday.
“By mutual agreement, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation will not attend the summit, but the Russian Federation will be represented by Foreign Minister Mr [Sergey] Lavrov,” Vincent Magwenya, a spokesman for President Cyril Ramaphosa, said in a statement.
South Africa faced a dilemma in hosting the summit because, as a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March for alleged war crimes, it would theoretically be required to arrest him if he were to attend.
The dilemma led to intense debate in South Africa and the West about whether the warrant would be executed, given South Africa’s stance of neutrality on the war in Ukraine and Pretoria’s historic ties to the Kremlin.
In 2015, South Africa also failed to arrest then-Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who was also the subject of an ICC warrant.
The leaders of Brazil, India and South Africa will attend the summit, the presidency said.
BRICS, a bloc of emerging economic powers comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China was formed in 2019 as BRIC. South Africa joined the following year after an invitation from China, expanding the group.
Ethiopia, Iran and Argentina have also applied to join the bloc.