Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend a BRICS nations summit in South Africa next month, the country’s presidency said on Wednesday, ending months of speculation.
Putin’s potential visit has been a thorny diplomatic issue for South Africa. The Russian leader is the target of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant — a provision that Pretoria as an ICC member would be expected to implement were he to set foot in the country.
“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 (Sergei) Lavrov,” Vincent Magwenya, a spokesman for President Cyril Ramaphosa, said in a statement.
The decision follows “a number of consultations” held by Ramaphosa in recent months, the most recent of which took place “last night,” Magwenya said.
South Africa is the current chair of the BRICS group, a gathering of heavyweights that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China, which sees itself as a counterweight to Western economic domination.
Putin was formally invited to BRICS summit due to take place in Johannesburg between August 22 and 24, but Pretoria has been under heavy domestic and international pressure not to host him.
“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,” Magwenya said. Putin is sought by the ICC over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children.