/ 20 July 2023

No Vlad, too bad, so sad: Putin pulls out of Brics summit

Pals: President Vladimir Putin can watch the Brics summit on TV in the Kremlin with Jacob Zuma.


The president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, will no longer be coming to our fair republic for the 15th Brics summit in Johannesburg next month.

The political theatre — circus actually — that had been promising to play itself out in Sandton on the arrival of the Russian head of state has, rather fortunately, morphed into the Vladimir No Show.

It’s now official that our president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has secured the non-appearance of Putin at the Sandton gig next month, in a “mutual agreement” with the Russian head of state.

The rest of the Brics nations — Brazil, India and China — will be forced to settle for Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, for the duration of the summit, but will undoubtedly be relieved by being able to get on with the job at hand with much less drama.

Putin will be reduced to watching the proceedings on the Kremlin big screen usually reserved for the Zenit games, the Ekaterina TV series and the latest update on the invasion of Ukraine, rather than occupying centre stage at the summit.

Not the optics Vladimir would have been hoping to deliver at Brics, but at least he won’t have to worry about Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen — or the Western Cape’s premier, Alan WInde — trying to arrest him. It was close for a while, but Winde definitely beat Steenhuisen to the emptiest threat award in the bleat-off leading up to Ramaphosa’s announcement.

Putin’s no show may also give our former head of state, Jacob Zuma, an opportunity to watch Brics in comfort.

Like Putin, uBaba is no longer going to make the guest list for the summit and is available for a TV date.

Nxamalala appears to be in no rush to return to his former lodgings at the Estcourt Correctional Centre.

The Midlands is a bit chilly at this time of year, so uBaba would understandably be happier to honour an invite for a Brics and chill session at Vlad’s pad on the 22nd than a go-back-to-jail order.

For the rest of us, the threatened arrest of Putin over an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant issued for taking Ukraine children to Russia, which the DA had gone to court to enforce, is no longer an issue.

There’s no longer a danger of Putin nuking Pretoria if Ramaphosa arrested him, as the president claimed in his confidential affidavit in the DA court case, which was released on the instruction of the presiding judge.

There never really was.

A cuffed and blindfolded Russian president might have had some difficulty hitting the red button, after all.

Any nuclear strike on Pretoria ordered by Moscow in retaliation would also have vapourised Vladimir along with the occupants of the Union Building, so that wasn’t going to happen either.

There’s no apocalypse heading for Sandton and there’s no longer a need of the Economic Freedom Fighters turning up to greet Putin at the airport; for Julius Malema to offer himself as the Russian president’s protector while on South African soil.

No Vlad.

Too bad.

So sad. 

Sad, but nowhere, anywhere near as sad as Steenhuisen, who has just lost Vlad Gevaar as an arrow in his early election campaign quiver.

It’s been John’s most frequently flighted quarrel in recent months, and one which he had undoubtedly been looking forward to continuing using, despite his claim of owning the Putin no show.

No Bad Vlad — and no money shot of John getting dragged off by security at the Sandton Convention Centre, his very own Kumi Naidoo moment.

Word has it there was already space reserved for John’s arrest photo on the cover of the DA election manifesto for next year — next to the one of him posing with that old washing machine drum in a Kyiv park last year.

The cellphone goes.

It’s a statement from the Kremlin, responding to Ramaphosa’s announcement.

Putin won’t be attending, because of the “technicality” of South Africa’s legal commitment to executing the ICC warrant, but will participate comprehensively in the summit by video link.

A fair result; wins all round, actually.

Ramaphosa gets to host a repercussion-free Brics; Putin gets to address it; Zuma gets to look on, over his shoulder; the rest of us don’t get nuked; and John still has the chance to make an arrest.


There is at least one person for whom Putin’s absence from the Brics team photo will present an opportunity, rather than an obstacle, or a problem.

Panyaza Lesufi, Gauteng’s premier, is already on standby for another political photobomb, so there will be no shortage of heads available for the official Brics photograph, Putin or no Putin.

Where there’s a camera, there’s a way.