Why did Russia’s Vladimir Putin skip BRICS summit in South Africa? Hint: arrest warrant

The three-day summit of the BRICS group will noticeably see top leaders of the forum meet in South Africa. However Russian President Vladimir Putin will skip the meet. The BRICS group which consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is holding its first in-person meeting since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The BRICS group was formed in 2009 by Brazil, Russia, India and China. South Africa was added in 2010.

However, Russian president Vladimir 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. China’s Xi Jinping, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will attend in person as the bloc.Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stressed that Putin will fully participate despite appearing virtually and will make a speech. Russia will also be represented in person by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will be at the summit, as will Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

Overall, around 1,200 delegates from the five BRICS nations and dozens of other developing countries are expected in Johannesburg, including more than 40 heads of state, according to Ramaphosa. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also is expected to attend.

At the summit, there will be calls for more economic cooperation and collaboration in areas such as health, education and climate change — but under a growing sentiment in the developing world that it is not being served by what it sees as Western-led institutions such as the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

If anything, BRICS has been a forum for Russia to express its anti-Western rhetoric, with Lavrov using a BRICS foreign ministers meeting in June to lambast the West for its “hegemony” and using “financial blackmail” to serve its “selfish interests”.

A small protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was held Tuesday at a public park more than 3 km (1.8 miles) from the summit venue.

There’s added urgency after Russia halted a deal allowing Ukraine to export through the Black Sea last month, exacerbating hunger and pushing food prices higher. Putin later announced free Russian grain shipments to six African nations and might offer more shipments this week, some analysts say, as a means of gaining favour among the dozens of developing nations represented at the BRICS summit.

*With inputs from Associated Press

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Updated: 22 Aug 2023, 07:44 PM IST

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