In an unprecedented move, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, has opted to skip the upcoming summit of the BRICS group of developing economies. The announcement comes amidst legal complications arising from the International Criminal Court's (ICC) recent arrest warrant for Putin.
Reuters reports that the decision was reached "by mutual agreement" between Putin and the hosting country's presidency. With the summit scheduled for August in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Russian President's absence is set to create a noticeable gap at the roundtable.
In his stead, Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, alongside the leaders of Brazil, India, China, and South Africa. The news came from an official press release issued by the South African Presidency.
The Legal Quandary Looming Over the Summit
South Africa found itself in a tricky position when organizing the summit. As a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the nation could theoretically be obliged to arrest Putin for alleged war crimes if he were to attend.
The arrest warrant issued by the ICC in March accuses Putin of illegally deporting children from Ukraine, a war crime by international standards. However, Moscow quickly dismissed the warrant, declaring it legally invalid since Russia is not a member of the ICC.
The drama intensified when a local court filing released on Tuesday showed that South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa had requested the ICC for permission not to arrest Putin. Arresting the Russian leader, Ramaphosa argued, could be tantamount to a declaration of war.
While the Kremlin did not directly equate the arrest of Putin to a declaration of war, it certainly echoed similar sentiments. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that an arrest would constitute a violation of Putin's rights.
The situation is further complicated by South Africa's diplomatic ties. Despite maintaining a neutral stance on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, South Africa has faced criticism from Western powers for its perceived friendliness towards Russia. This dynamic is partly historical, with Russia having been a stalwart ally of the ruling African National Congress.
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