Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he skipped a BRICS summit in South Africa because he did not want to cause a “political show”.
The Russian leader is the target of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant — a provision that South Africa as an ICC member would be expected to implement if he were to set foot in the country.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attended the summit in Johannesburg.
“Why should I create some problems for our friends during an event?” Putin said at a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.
“If I come, a political show will start,” he said, adding that he had “enough to do at home”.
South Africa said at the time that Putin did not want to “jeopardise” the talks.
In March, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin over his decision to send troops to Ukraine last year and over the illegal deportation of children to Russia.
Moscow has branded the arrest warrant “illegal”.
Later this month Putin is expected to visit ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, his first foreign trip since the issuance of the ICC arrest warrant.
He has rarely left Russia since launching the full-scale offensive against Ukraine in February 2022.
Putin last left Russia in December last year, when he travelled to neighbouring Belarus and to Kyrgyzstan.
This week, Armenia approved a key step towards joining the ICC, angering Moscow.
Russia is due to host the next BRICS summit in the city of Kazan in October 2024, after the country holds a presidential election that could extend Putin’s rule until at least 2030.
The bloc brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.