Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend a Brics summit in South Africa next month, according to the country's presidency, a media report said.
The announcement came after a South African leader said that any attempt to arrest Vladimir Putin would be a declaration of war against Russia. This is because if Putin leaves Russian soil, he will be subject to an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant, BBC reported.
South Africa is an ICC signatory and is expected to help in Putin's arrest in that case. Instead, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will represent the country at the two-day summit.
However, Putin will take part in the Brics conference - an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - virtually, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian media.
The Brics grouping is seen by some as an alternative to the G7 group of advanced economies.
In a statement, South Africa's presidency described the agreement for Putin not to attend as "mutual" and said it had come about following a "number of consultations" on the summit, BBC reported.
Supporters of Russia have criticised the decision, saying South Africa should have insisted and used its sovereignty to protect and defend its 'friend'.
South Africa's invitation to Putin, issued before the ICC accused him of war crimes in Ukraine, has caused controversy both nationally and internationally, BBC reported.
Peskov denied Moscow had told South Africa that arresting its President would mean an act of war, but said it was "clear to everyone what [that kind of] infringement against the head of the Russian state would mean".
Russia has consistently described the ICC arrest warrant as outrageous and legally void, because the country is not a member of the organisation, BBC reported.