The office of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday that Russian leader Vladimir Putin will not attend the summit of BRICS leaders in Johannesburg next month. The decision was taken by the two nations, it added.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will represent Moscow at the high-profile event, the host nation announced.
“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 statement said.
Russia has yet to confirm the statement. As of last Friday, Putin’s office said no final decision had been taken on his plans for the summit.
The event in South Africa is the first in-person gathering of BRICS leaders in several years. Covid-19 travel restrictions previously made virtual summits more feasible for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, which comprise the bloc.
The possible visit of Putin posed a conundrum for South Africa, as the country is a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The body issued an arrest warrant for Putin over his alleged role in the “kidnapping” of Ukrainian children. Russia has dismissed the charges as politically motivated and misrepresenting the evacuations of minors from the conflict zone.
“Russia has made it clear that arresting its sitting president would be a declaration of war,” Ramaphosa explained in a court filing released on Tuesday. “It would be inconsistent with our constitution to risk engaging in war with Russia.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied on Wednesday that Russia had made any implicit threats to South Africa.
“Everyone in this world understands what an attempt [against] the head of the Russian state would mean. There is no need for any explanation here,” he told journalists.