27th February 2024 6:30 pm
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How will Putin tune into the 2023 BRICS Summit?

Next week, from 22nd to 24th August to be precise, the eyes of the world will be on South Africa as it hosts the 2023 edition of the BRICS Summit. In the lead up to the event, there has been much debate as to what role South Africa would play if one delegate in particular attended the event – Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It is well known that Putin currently has a warrant out for his arrest from the International Criminal Court as a result of his continued invasion and war against Ukraine, which is a conflict that South Africa’s government has neither supported, not condemned, unlike other nations across the globe.

As such, should Putin attend the 2023 BRICS Summit in-person next week, it will be up to South African officials to arrest him.

Fortunately (depending on how you look at it), however, that action likely will not have to come to fruition, as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last month that Putin would be attending the Summit virtually.

While it remains to be seen whether that is indeed the case, this got us thinking, precisely how will Putin be tuning into the event, especially given that he will likely be doing so from within the confines of the Kremlin or somewhere else in Russia.

Let us ponder for a moment then, forgetting a plethora of VPN services available on the market these days, that President Vladimir Putin will need to find another workaround, as many mainstream videoconferencing solutions do not operate in Russia at the moment given the aforementioned conflict.

What is, and is not, available?

Ever since the Russian invasion in Ukraine began in February of last year, a number of technology companies have chosen to exit the region, or simply suspend offering services in the country.

These have included many popular options, with Microsoft and other big tech firms going even further by suspending any new sales or business from any of its divisions. In retaliation, the Russian government banned the use of many online platforms by its officials, citing data leaks and a general lack of trustworthiness.

Per Heimdal Security, the list of banned online platforms and applications include WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Discord, Telegram, Skype for Business, Snapchat, and more.

Looking at the exhaustive list, two options remain available – Google Meet and Zoom.

Both organisations have famously chosen to remain active in Russia, and have not restricted access to solutions or services in the region.

On the Google side of things, services like Search, YouTube, and Maps are still available, and while the company has spoken out against Russia’s actions, it is still quite happy to leverage the country’s citizens as a user base.

As for Zoom, interestingly when the Ukraine conflict broke out, the videoconferencing platform updated its list of restricted countries, which for some reason did not include Russia. That list currently features Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Ukraine, with the broad term of “regulatory reasons” being cited for the restricted status.

With Vladimir Putin seemingly having two popular options available to him, it really boils down to what the BRICS Summit will favour for those tuning in virtually. As we saw during lockdown, the South African government favoured Zoom, but as we also saw, the ease with which a call could be hacked led to some embarrassing outcomes.

Google Meet then? While it is a viable option, the fact that it is from an American-owned company may not sit well with other BRICS leaders, which include China’s President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As such, we would not be surprised to see Putin boot up his PC and sit to wait to be let into a Zoom call this time next week for the 2023 BRICS Summit.

[Image – Photo by Don Fontijn on Unsplash]

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