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Russia’s Putin stays away over arrest warrant as leaders of emerging economies meet in South Africa

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JOHANNESBURG, Aug 22: Russian President Vladimir Putin will be notably absent when Chinese
President Xi Jinping and other leaders from the BRICS group of emerging economies start a three-
day summit in South Africa on Tuesday.
The bloc, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is holding its first in-person
meeting since before the COVID-19 pandemic, but Putin will participate via video call after his travel
to South Africa was complicated by an International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued for him in
March over the abduction of children from Ukraine.
Xi, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South
African President Cyril Ramaphosa will attend in person as the bloc — home to 40% of the world’s
population and responsible for more than 30% of global economic output — mulls a possible
expansion.
That will top the agenda at Wednesday’s main summit meeting in Johannesburg’s financial district of
Sandton. More than 20 nations have applied to join the bloc, according to South African officials,
including Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.
The five BRICS countries will have to agree on the criteria for new members before any countries are
admitted, but a bigger BRICS is seen as a policy favoured by China and Russia amid their
deteriorating relations with the West.
The BRICS group was formed in 2009 by Brazil, Russia, India and China. South Africa was added in
2010.
South African Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel officially opened the summit Tuesday,
welcoming about 1,200 delegates from the five BRICS nations but also from dozens of other
developing countries. More than 40 heads of state are expected at the three-day meeting, according
to Ramaphosa.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has stressed that Putin will fully participate despite appearing
virtually and will make a speech. Russia will also be represented in person by Foreign Minister Sergey
Lavrov.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also is expected to attend.
The summit officially began with a business forum on Tuesday morning, and Xi, Lula, Modi and
Ramaphosa were expected to arrive at the Sandton Convention Centre for the first meeting of the
leaders in the afternoon. They will also hold a retreat Tuesday evening at the luxury Summer Place
estate in Johannesburg’s plush Hyde Park suburb.
Xi, who has gradually resumed foreign travel after the lifting of his country’s strict COVID-19
regulations, was to meet with Ramaphosa for a state visit in the South African capital, Pretoria, on
Tuesday morning.
He will then travel 60 km (37 miles) through South Africa’s most important economic province of
Gauteng to the summit in Johannesburg. (AP)

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