Putin and Ramaphosa met in St. Petersburg last month during an African president’s peace mission.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the BRICS summit in South Africa next month, the country’s presidency announced on Wednesday, putting an end to months of rumors that he may be detained.
The prospect of a visit by Putin has been a diplomatic headache for Pretoria.
The Russian leader is the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant, which South Africa, as a member of the ICC, would be expected to enforce should he enter the country.
“By mutual agreement, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation will not attend the summit,” President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, said in a statement.
Magwenya stated that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would instead represent Russia.
He added that the decision followed “a number of consultations” held by Ramaphosa in recent months, the most recent of which occurred last night.
South Africa is the current chair of the BRICS group, which also comprises Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and views itself as a counterweight to Western economic dominance.
Putin was formally summoned to a BRICS summit scheduled to take place in Johannesburg from August 22 to 24, but Pretoria was under intense domestic and international pressure not to host him.
Magwenya stated that all of the other world leaders would be present.
“President Ramaphosa is confident that the Summit will be a success and calls on the nation to extend the necessary hospitality to the many delegates who will arrive from various parts of the continent and the globe,” he said.
The International Criminal Court is seeking Putin over allegations that Russia illegally deported Ukrainian children.
In court documents filed on Tuesday, Ramaphosa stated that his arrest would have constituted a declaration of war against Russia.
The assessment was provided in an affidavit in response to a request by the country’s leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), which sought to force the government’s hand and ensure that the Kremlin leader would be delivered over to the ICC if he were to arrive.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, was asked if the language of war was used in negotiations between the two nations.
“No, it did not sound that way,” he responded.
“In this world, it is crystal evident what an attempt to encroach on the Russian state’s leadership would entail.
“Therefore, there is no need to explain this to anyone,” Peskov continued.
The affidavit revealed that South Africa was requesting an exemption from the International Criminal Court’s rules, arguing that the arrest would have endangered the “security, peace, and order of the state.”
Pretoria has stated for a long time that it wishes to maintain neutrality in the Ukraine conflict, but critics have accused it of favoring Moscow.
Some feared South Africa’s strong economic and trade ties with the United States and Europe would be jeopardized by hosting Putin.
Their trade with Russia is considerably smaller, but their relationship dates back decades to when the Kremlin supported the ruling African National Congress party during the struggle against apartheid.
In recent interviews with local media, South African Vice President Paul Mashatile stated that the government had been attempting to dissuade Putin from attending.