- Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the upcoming BRICS Summit 2023 virtually.
- His involvement was confirmed by BRICS “Sherpa” Anil Sookla earlier this week.
- President Cyril Ramaphosa met with Putin over the matter earlier this month, with his virtual attendance mutually agreed upon.
With much conjecture around next month’s BRICS Summit set to take place in Johannesburg, particularly in terms of the different leaders that would be in attendance, now South Africa’s BRICS “Sherpa” Anil Sookla has confirmed that President Vladimir Putin will participate in the upcoming Summit virtually.
“He will attend the summit virtually. He will be involved in all of the sessions that the leaders are partaking in the traditional summit of BRICS leaders,” Sooklal informed media during a briefing.
In his stead, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will attend in-person. “Although Minister Lavrov will be physically present, President Putin will participate virtually,” added Sooklal.
The leader, who currently has an arrest warrant out from the International Criminal Court, spoke with our own President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this month to discuss his attendance, with the two deciding by “mutual agreement” that he should not attend the Summit in-person.
Given how friendly the pair looked during a meeting last month with fellow African leaders to discuss the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, one can’t help but wonder if Ramaphosa was “looking out” for his fellow BRICS member. This as South Africa would have face increased geopolitical pressure if Putin did attend the Summit and no legal action was taken against him.
As we know, DIRCO has given diplomatic immunity to any leaders that are a part of the BRICS Summit and associated events, but the aforementioned arrest warrant supersedes such immunity. It would then be up to South African officials to take action once Putin landed in the country, but this is clearly something that SA wants to avoid, having sat on the fence ever since the war in the Ukraine first broke out.
Sooklal, however, was effusive in his praise of the Russian president and his “choice” not to attend in person.
“President Putin not being physically present in the summit impacts all the other leaders as well and I think it shows the maturity and the strength of the partnership and that collectively, we could come to a decision. President Putin understands the dilemma South Africa faces and didn’t want to jeopardise the summit or create problems for South Africa and this is the strength of BRICS cooperation,” he highlighted.
With the eyes of the world zeroing in on South Africa next month when the Summit takes place from 22nd to 24th August, it will indeed be interesting to see what tact our government takes, especially given how our reputation was suffered in recent months for our Russian affiliations.