(Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin said the BRICS grouping of countries was on course to meet the aspirations of most of the world's population, according to recorded remarks at a summit of the BRICS countries in South Africa on Tuesday.
"We cooperate on the principles of equality, partnership support, respect for each other’s interests, and this is the essence of the future-oriented strategic course of our association, a course that meets the aspirations of the main part of the world community, the so-called global majority," Putin said.
The BRICS members - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - represent more than 40% of the world's population and the summit is expected to discuss adding new members, but he did not address that question in his remarks.
Putin was unable to attend the summit in person because of an arrest warrant issued for him in March by the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing him of war crimes in Ukraine.
Russia rejected the accusation as outrageous and said the move had no legal meaning because it is not a member of the ICC. South Africa is a member, however, meaning it would have been obliged to arrest him if he had travelled there.
Putin said the summit would discuss in detail the question of switching trade between member countries away from the U.S. dollar and into national currencies, a process in which the BRICS' New Development Bank would play a big role.
"The objective, irreversible process of de-dollarization of our economic ties is gaining momentum," he said.
BRICS is an increasingly important forum for Russia at a time when its economy is grappling with Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine and it is looking to build new diplomatic and trade relations with Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Putin said Russia was looking to develop two flagship projects in particular - a northern sea route with new ports, fuel terminals and an expanded icebreaker fleet, and a north-south corridor connecting Russian ports with sea terminals in the Gulf and in the Indian Ocean.
He said Russia would remain a reliable food supplier to Africa and was finalising talks on providing free grain to a group of African countries, as he promised at a summit in St Petersburg last month.
The promise came after Russia pulled out of a deal that had enabled Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports, and after it repeatedly bombed Ukrainian ports and grain stores, leading Kyiv and the West to accuse it of using food as a weapon of war.
(Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Bernadette Baum)