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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Mercenary mutiny and Macron: Kremlin fortress now beats Brics outing for Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly 'cool by the Kremlin's pool' to not attend the Brics summit in person. Especially after his Wagner weekend...

It appears that the South African government might finally be able to side-step the double-edged sword of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attendance at the Brics summit later this year in Johannesburg.

This after Putin reportedly told South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on the sidelines of last weekend’s Ukraine-Russia African Peace Mission that he would be willing for foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to attend the summit on his behalf.

ALSO READ: South Africa embarrassed, DA wants ‘shambolic’ African peace mission investigated

Brics summit dilemma

Putin is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), in The Hague, over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children during the Ukraine-Russia war which has been sowing death and destruction for the past 16 months.

As a member of the ICC, South Africa would be expected to arrest the Russian president when he sets foot in the country.

Department of International Relations & Co-operation (Dirco) Minister Naledi Pandor and her team have been scratching their heads as to how to circumvent the problematic situation.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa to announce decision on Putin at ‘right time’ – Mbalula

Some of the suggestions include Putin attending the summit of Brics countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — virtually or sending a representative in his place. He also suggested that the summit be moved to China as the superpower’s government was not a member of the ICC.

ALSO READ: Brics: Untangling the Putin mess

Behind closed doors: Russian leader talks Brics during African Peace Mission

A senior government official reportedly told Sunday Times that Putin is not opposed to the idea of a compromise for the Brics summit which takes place from 22 to 24 August.

“In the talks he made it clear that he doesn’t want to sabotage our summit. And, as a compromise, he would be willing to send foreign minister Lavrov to lead the Russian delegation while he remains in Moscow.”

Government insider sources also alleged that Ramaphosa used the peace mission’s visit to St Petersburg to persuade Putin not to attend the summit in person.

This was corroborated by another government official privy to the discussions.

“He [Putin] won’t come and we are not in support of moving the summit.

“What is likely to happen now is that he will send a last-minute apology, perhaps on the day he’s supposed to land, stating that he has sent the minister to represent him,” the source told the media outlet.

ALSO READ: It would make sense to ask the Chinese to helps us out

Wagner, Brics and Macron: Putin to stay put in Kremlin fortress?

Since then, two crucial developments this week could be the final nail in the coffin of the president’s in-person attendance:

  • The Wagner group’s shock armed rebellion against the Kremlin this Saturday; and
  • French President Emmanuel Macron’s request to attend the Brics summit.

Instead of crying in his silk pillow from Chinese President Xi Jinping, Putin would most likely be celebrating with caviar and a double vodka in his Kremlin fortress.

Not having to jump on one of his many private jets might seem like an attractive option for the wounded ego of the superpower “bully”.

Well, maybe he should consider jetting around Ramaphosa’s excessive security detail on the African Peace Mission. More than 120 security personnel and crates of combat arms excessive…

ALSO READ: Overprotected? How much Ramaphosa’s Ukraine-Russia ‘security blankie’ cost SA

Wagner group a ‘stab in the back’

 On Friday evening, Russia’s de facto private military organisation, the feared Wagner group, announced on Telegram that it would invade Russia and “punish” the country’s military leaders for an alleged missile attack on the mercenaries’ base in Ukraine.

Putin said the armed mutiny was a “stab in the back” and that Prigozhin had betrayed Russia.

On Sunday, however, Wagner mercenaries were headed back to base after the disgraced Russian leader Putin agreed to allow the leader of the mercenaries to avoid treason charges and accept exile in Belarus.

ALSO READ: Wagner chief to leave Russia in deal to ease crisis

Members of Wagner group sit atop of a tank in a street in the city of Rostov-on-Don, on June 24, 2023.
Members of Wagner group sit atop of a tank in a street in the city of Rostov-on-Don, on Saturday 24 June. Russian President Vladimir Putin aid the armed mutiny by Wagner mercenaries was a “stab in the back” and that the group’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had betrayed Russia. Picture: AFP

Macron at Brics… but no Putin, si vouz plait

Earlier this week, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna has reportedly informed her counterpart Pandor that Macron was interested to attend the Brics summit to pursue dialogue with the bloc’s members.

This as Ramaphosa jetted off to Paris to rub shoulders with Macron and other world leaders at the two-day Summit for a New Global Financing Pact while still basking in the glow of South Africa’s first dedicated green hydrogen fund — the SA-H2 — with the aid of the Netherlands.

With this fund, government aims to raise about R19 billion to build a pipeline of green hydrogen projects.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, which from 22 to 23 June. Photo: Twitter @ThePresidency

Pandor responded that it would be an “innovation” if Macron attended, but that it would be up to Ramaphosa as the current Brics chairperson to decide.

Colonna, however, made it clear that the leader of France — a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) member country — would not attend if Putin did.

‘Inappropriate’ for SA to Invite Macron – Kremlin

South Africa’s apartheid-era Kremlin comrade isn’t impressed with Macron’s bid to gate-crash the summit.

“We sent a signal that, with all due respect to the prerogatives of the host country, inviting certain guests should be based on the fact that Brics is an association of states that, in principle, reject unilateral sanctions as a method of solving foreign policy problems,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said on Thursday, according to the state-owned news agency TASS.

“Considering this, the inappropriateness of the appearance of representatives of the collective West there is simply obvious,” Ryabkov added.