Putin to stay away from BRICS summit in South Africa amid row over possible arrest
Putin will not be attending an August summit of the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Pretoria confirmed on Wednesday, bringing an end to months of speculation over whether the country would arrest the Russian president on an international warrant.
The task of hosting the summit next month had brought South Africa to a state of dilemma because, as a member of the ICC that issued the arrest warrant in March over the president’s alleged war crimes during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it would be obliged to make the arrest.
Instead of Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be at the summit in Johannesburg on August 22 – 24, South Africa’s presidency confirmed in a statement. The Russian leader would dial into the meeting by video call, the Kremlin said.
Moscow Calls The Arrest Warrant Legally Void
The Hague-based International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin this year, accusing him of illegally deporting children from Ukraine. But Moscow has called the warrant legally void as the country isn’t counted among members of the ICC.
While Moscow has not tried to keep hidden a programme under which it has brought scores of Ukrainian children into Russia, it presents it as a humanitarian campaign aimed at protecting orphans and kids abandoned amid the war.
A recent court filing showed South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa had asked the international court for permission to not arrest Putin as doing so would be similar to declaring war and could even harm African efforts to end the year-long conflict in Ukraine.
Some Doubt BRICS Summit Would Now Be As Noteworthy As Expected
Although South Africa has repeatedly stressed its neutral role in the Ukraine war, Western powers have criticised it for maintaining friendly relations with Russia. Putin’s no-show means the summit would potentially not be as groundbreaking as some had expected, an expert said.
Some BRICS nations had expected the August summit would provide an opportunity to find a currency that could rival the US dollar, but this was now unlikely to happen, said Andre Thomashausen, emeritus professor of international law at the University of South Africa.
The announcement on Putin choosing to stay away from the meeting drew mixed reactions in the African nation. While a Johannesburg resident said it was an upside for people that don’t feel like South Africa needs the alliance with Russia, others argued strong relations could actually help.