South Africa says BRICS summit will be in-person despite Putin arrest warrant

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, announced on Sunday that next month’s BRICS summit will be held in person in Johannesburg.

“The BRICS summit is going ahead, and we are finalising our discussions on the format,” he told journalists on the sidelines of a conference by the ruling African National Congress.

His country currently chairs the grouping, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and aims to challenge United States and European global dominance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been invited to attend despite being wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children.

As a member of the ICC, South Africa would be expected to arrest Putin if he set foot in the country.

There had been suggestions in local media that the summit might be moved to China or held virtually to avoid Pretoria being put in the position of having to arrest the Russian leader.

“We are going to have a physical BRICS summit, and all of us are committed to having a summit where we will be able to eyeball each other. We have not held a physical summit for quite a long time, almost three years now. So, sorry to disappoint you, it’s not going to be virtual,” said Ramaphosa.

Although he has been invited, it is not clear if Putin will attend the gathering.

The arrest warrant is a diplomatic dilemma for Pretoria, which has been close to the Kremlin since the anti-apartheid struggle years.

South Africa has faced criticism for not condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it says it is impartial and prefers dialogue.

Last month, Ramaphosa was part of a seven-country African peace delegation to Ukraine and Russia, in an attempt to broker peace between Kyiv and Moscow.

The 15th BRICS summit is due to take place in the financial hub Johannesburg from 22 to 24 August.

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