The upcoming BRICS summit in South Africa will proceed without the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as he faces an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.
The South African presidency announced this development on Wednesday, stating that, instead, the Russian Federation will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The situation stemmed from a March issuance of an arrest warrant against Putin by the International Criminal Court, relating to the forced transfer of children to Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. This put South Africa, a signatory to the ICC, in a delicate position, as the country has historically maintained a close relationship with Russia and has been reluctant to sever ties with the Kremlin.
The potential enforcement of the arrest warrant presented a significant dilemma for South Africa, as it would have been obligated to arrest Putin if he attended the planned BRICS leaders’ summit in Pretoria in August. President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed concerns about this predicament, stating that arresting Putin would essentially be seen as a “declaration of war.”
Due to these circumstances, Russia’s representation at the BRICS summit will be through Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while the leaders from Brazil, China, India, and South Africa are expected to attend the event. Notably, Russia is also set to host a separate meeting with African leaders in St. Petersburg on July 27-28, further extending its influence in the African continent.