This is the bizarre moment Vladimir Putin’s voice appeared to be ‘altered’ as he addressed a summit this week.
The pre-recorded video of his opening speech raised eyebrows when it was shown to delegates at the BRICS Business Forum in South Africa.
Russian journalists posted a 30-second clip of the video on Telegram, with the caption: “Putin addressed the BRICS Business Council via video link, but not with his own voice.”
The original clip, which features his regular speaking voice, was posted on the Russian government’s website. It is unclear whether the altered video was a technical fault or had been changed on purpose.
Mr Putin was forced to join the summit of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa remotely after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest in March.
The ICC accused Mr Putin of conducting war crimes by unlawfully deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
All other members of BRICS attended the summit in South Africa, with President Putin dialling in on a video call.
Chinese Premier Xi Jinping made a rare trip overseas to be at the bloc’s first in-person summit since before the Covid pandemic.
South Africa and Russia share strong ties and have a historically close relationship, but South Africa is also a signatory to the international court’s treaty. That means it would be obliged to arrest Mr Putin on the ICC warrant if he set foot on South African soil.
South Africa lobbied for months ahead of the summit to persuade Putin to stay at home so it could avoid the problem, South African officials say. Deputy President Paul Mashatile said last month that Mr Putin was determined to come before an agreement for him to participate virtually was finally announced.
“It’s almost like you invite your friend to your house, and then arrest them,” Mashatile said at the time. “That’s why for us his not coming is the best solution. The Russians are not happy, though. They want him to come.”
South Africa, the current chair of BRICS, has denied allegations that the bloc is taking an anti-West turn under the influence of China and Russia amid increased West-East geopolitical tensions.
“There’s an unfortunate narrative being developed that BRICS is anti-West, that BRICS was created as competition to the G-7 or the Global North, and that is incorrect,” said Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s ambassador to BRICS. “What we do seek is to advance the agenda of the Global South.”