By Press Trust of India: Vladimir Putin will not personally attend the BRICS summit here next month, sending his Foreign Minister instead, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday, ending weeks of speculation whether the Russian president would be arrested under an International Court of Justice (ICC) warrant for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
South Africa is the current chair of the BRICS — a grouping of heavyweights that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China. The BRICS summit will take place between August 22 and 24 in Johannesburg.
The ICC has indicted Putin for war crimes over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children. As a member of the ICC, South Africa is expected to arrest Putin if he sets foot in the country.
The South African government has been under great pressure to arrest Putin and take sides in the Ukraine-Russia war, which it has steadfastly refused to do.
“By mutual agreement between all BRICS member states, President Putin will not be attending the summit. However, Russia will be represented by its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov,” President Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.
The president’s office confirmed that Ramaphosa has for several months now held several consultations on South Africa’s hosting of the BRICS Summit, which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as the leaders of Brazil, China and South Africa.
Putin’s decision of not attending the BRICS summit has ended South Africa’s quandary about complying with the ICC warrant.
Ever since he was indicted for war crimes, Putin has not travelled to any country that is a signatory to the ICC treaty.
Meanwhile, quoting Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Russia’s official news agency TASS reported that President Putin will deliver his speech at the BRICS Summit via video conference.
“The President decided to take part in the BRICS Summit in a video conference format. It will be a proper participation,” Peskov said, confirming that Foreign Minister Lavrov will represent Russia at the summit in person.
On Tuesday, the Johannesburg High Court ruled that Ramaphosa has to make public his answering affidavit in a case related to the arrest warrant for President Putin brought by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).
Ramaphosa had earlier argued that the confidentiality of his affidavit was because of the restrictions by ICC laws that prohibited sharing of certain information.
“President Ramaphosa was never opposed to making the affidavits public; it was only in compliance with the ICC directive that the presidency sought to maintain confidentiality on the affidavit,” his spokesperson Vincent Magwenya has said.
In his affidavit, which has now been made public, Ramaphosa said that Russia had made it clear that issuing this warrant would mean war.
“South Africa has no capacity to declare or wage war with Russia, nor does it wish to. That much is trite,” Ramaphosa said.
In due course, a comprehensive statement on the substantive issues to be covered at the Summit and other related foreign policy matters will be issued, the South African President’s office said in the statement.
President Ramaphosa is “confident that the Summit will be a success and calls on the nation to extend the necessary hospitality to the many delegates who will arrive from various parts of the continent and the globe,” it added.