Russia's president will not attend a summit in South Africa next month, according to the country's presidency.
The announcement comes after South Africa's leader said any attempt to arrest Vladimir Putin would be a declaration of war against Russia.
If Mr Putin had left Russian soil, he would have been subject to an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant.
South Africa is an ICC signatory and expected to help in Mr Putin's arrest.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will represent the country at the two-day summit instead, according to a spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The decision to invite Mr Putin, who is wanted for war crimes in Ukraine, to South Africa has caused huge controversy in the country.
The biggest opposition party, Democratic Alliance, went to court to try to force the authorities to carry out an arrest on Mr Putin should he set foot in the country.
Court documents reveal that President Ramaphosa was firmly against any such move, stating that national security was at stake.
"Russia has made it clear that arresting its sitting president would be a declaration of war. It would be inconsistent with our constitution to risk engaging in war with Russia," he said in an affidavit.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry 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".