President Putin will not attend the BRICS summit in South Africa and Russia will instead be represented by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The announcement from South Africa’s presidency ends months of speculation and has been a thorny issue for the country in light of the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant issued for the Russian president.

Pretoria – an ICC member – would be expected to implement the warrant were he to set foot in the country.

"By mutual agreement, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation will not attend the summit, but the Russian Federation will be represented by Foreign Minister Mr (Sergei) Lavrov," Vincent Magwenya, a spokesman for President Cyril Ramaphosa, said in a statement.

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The decision follows "a number of consultations" held by Ramaphosa in recent months, the most recent of which took place "last night," Magwenya said.

South Africa is the current chair of the BRICS group, a gathering of heavyweights that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China, which sees itself as a counterweight to Western economic domination.

Putin was formally invited to BRICS summit due to take place in Johannesburg between August 22 and 24, but Pretoria has been under heavy domestic and international pressure not to host him.

Arresting Putin would amount to a “declaration of war” on Russia, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote in court papers released on Tuesday as the country wrangled over hosting the Russian leader.

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South Africa's diplomatic dilemma is playing out in court, where the leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), is trying to force the government's hand and ensure the Kremlin leader is held and handed over to the ICC if he steps foot in the country.

But in a responding affidavit, Ramaphosa described the DA's application as "irresponsible" and said national security was at stake.

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