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Russian President Vladimir Putin will be notably absent when Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders from the BRICS group of emerging economies start a three-day summit in South Africa on Tuesday.
The bloc, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is holding its first in-person meeting since before the COVID-19 pandemic, but Putin will participate via video call after his travel to South Africa was complicated by an International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued for him in March over the abduction of children from Ukraine.
Xi, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will attend in person as the bloc — home to 40% of the world’s population and responsible for more than 30% of global economic output — mulls a possible expansion that will top the agenda at Wednesday’s main summit meeting in Johannesburg’s financial district of Sandton. More than 20 nations have applied to join the bloc, according to South African officials, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.
Putin was meant to be at the summit in South Africa this week, was he asked to stay away?
Well, not really! the actual reason is, An International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued for the Russian president put summit host South Africa in a sticky situation and ultimately resulted in Putin staying at home.
While all the others are set to attend the meeting in person, Putin will dial in on a video call
Vladimir Putin will be the odd one out when leaders from the BRICS economic bloc of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa meet in Johannesburg this week.
All the leaders from the BRICS countries traditionally attend its summits, and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is making a rare trip overseas to be at the bloc’s first in-person summit since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Putin’s indictment by the International Criminal Court in March charging him with war crimes over the removal of children from Ukraine left South Africa with a significant diplomatic conundrum.
South Africa and Russia share strong ties and have an historically close relationship, but South Africa is also a signatory to the international court’s treaty. That meant it would be obliged to arrest Putin on the ICC warrant if he set foot on South African soil.
South Africa lobbied for months ahead of the summit to persuade Putin to stay at home so it could avoid the problem, South African officials say. South African Deputy President Paul Mashatile said last month that Putin was determined to come before an agreement for him to participate virtually was finally announced.
“It’s almost like you invite your friend to your house, and then arrest them,” Mashatile said at the time. “That’s why for us his not coming is the best solution. The Russians are not happy, though. They want him to come.”
The Kremlin didn’t say if Putin had been intending to travel to South Africa, but stressed he would still play a key role in the main summit meeting Wednesday and address the delegates on a video link.
“We are talking about full-fledged participation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “This will include a speech by the president and, if necessary, participation in an exchange of views.”