Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t attend next month’s summit of BRICS leaders and will instead be represented by his foreign minister, South Africa’s presidency said. The rand pared its earlier losses.
Putin’s decision means the South African authorities will avoid having to execute an International Criminal Court warrant for the Russian leader’s arrest.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will attend the summit in Putin’s stead, the presidency said in a statement on Wednesday. The decision for Putin not to attend was by mutual consent, it said.
Russia initially refused a request by Ramaphosa for their delegation to be led by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov instead of Putin.
India and Brazil rejected a second option to move the summit to China, while a proposal to host the event virtually was opposed by all four nations, he said.
South Africa has adopted a non-aligned stance toward Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The government’s position has drawn harsh criticism from some of the nation’s largest trading partners, including the US and the European Union, and from some of its biggest banks.
The ICC issued the warrant against Putin on March 17 for war crimes related to the alleged abduction of children from Ukraine. South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the tribunal and is bound by its decisions.
Pretoria drew international condemnation in 2015 when it refused to execute an ICC arrest warrant for then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir while he was attending an African Union summit in the country.
Former South African President Jacob Zuma proposed withdrawing from the ICC in 2016, though that plan was later abandoned.
The leaders of the other BRICS nations — Brazil, India and China — will attend the summit, the first such in-person gathering since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the South African Presidency.
“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,” it said.