South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that next month’s BRICS summit, to which Vladimir Putin has been invited, will be held in person despite the Russian leader’s arrest warrant.
“The BRICS summit is ongoing and we have concluded our discussions on the format,” Ramaphosa told reporters on the sidelines of a ruling ANC conference, adding that it would be a “physical” meeting.
He did not say whether Putin – who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over accusations that Russia illegally deported Ukrainian children – would attend.
“We will have a physical BRICS summit, we are all committed to having a summit where we can eyeball each other,” he said in response to a question.
“We haven’t held a physical summit for … almost three years. It can’t be virtual,” he stressed.
As an ICC member, South Africa is expected to arrest Putin if he sets foot in the country.
There are rumors in the local media that Pretoria is considering moving the talks to China to avoid being put in the position of having to arrest Putin.
The arrest warrant is a diplomatic dilemma for Pretoria, which has been close to the Kremlin since the years of the struggle against apartheid.
South Africa has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it is impartial and prefers dialogue.
Last month, Ramaphosa led the presidents of the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Senegal and Uganda in a historic attempt to broker peace between Kyiv and Moscow.
The mission of the African leaders brings the voice of a continent that has suffered badly from the effects of the conflict in Ukraine, especially from the increase in the price of grain.
It put forward a 10-point proposal, including de-escalation, the recognition of the sovereignty of nations, unrestricted export of grain through the Black Sea and sending prisoners of war and children back to their countries of origin.
South Africa is the current chair of BRICS, a group of heavyweights that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China to challenge the dominant world governance structures led by the US and Europe.
It will host the 15th BRICS summit at the Sandton Convention Center in the financial hub Johannesburg from August 22 to 24.