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US accuses South Africa of supplying arms to Russia

The US has accused South Africa of supplying arms to Russia in a covert naval operation, escalating a overseas coverage disaster for President Cyril Ramaphosa over the nation’s ties to the Kremlin and place on the Ukraine battle.

Reuben Brigety, US ambassador to South Africa, informed native media on Thursday that the US believed weapons and ammunition have been loaded on to the Woman R, a Russian vessel beneath sanctions that docked at Simon’s City naval dockyard close to Cape City in December.

“Among the many issues we famous was the docking of the cargo ship . . . which we’re assured uploaded weapons and ammunition on to that vessel in Simon’s City because it made its means again to Russia,” he stated, in feedback reported by South Africa’s News24.

Brigety additionally stated that senior US officers had “profound issues” concerning the incident, which “doesn’t counsel to us the actions of a non-aligned nation”.

The state division stated the US had raised the difficulty straight with South African officers. Spokesman Vedant Patel stated: “The US has critical issues concerning the docking of a sanctioned Russian cargo vessel at a South African naval port in December of final 12 months.”

“We’ve been fairly clear and haven’t parsed phrases about any nation taking steps to help Russia’s unlawful and brutal battle in Ukraine,” he added, “and we’ll proceed to have interaction with companions and international locations on this subject.”

Ramaphosa’s workplace responded by saying an impartial inquiry can be arrange beneath a retired choose to look into the allegations. It additionally stated talks had been held between South African and US officers over the vessel and an settlement to permit investigations to proceed.

“It’s subsequently disappointing that the US ambassador has adopted a counter-productive public place that undermines the understanding reached on the matter and the very optimistic and constructive engagements between the 2 delegations,” Ramaphosa’s workplace stated in a press release.

US anger highlights the mounting tensions between the west and international locations which have refused to sentence Russia over the battle or be a part of sanctions efforts.

Like South Africa, India has continued to treat Russia as a pleasant nation and western diplomats have struggled to persuade growing nations throughout Africa and Asia to again Ukraine. Brigety additionally criticised a decision from the ruling African Nationwide Congress, which stated “the US provoked the battle with Russia over Ukraine”.

John Steenhuisen, chief of South Africa’s most important opposition Democratic Alliance, known as for an pressing parliamentary debate on South Africa’s involvement with Russia, and stated that the US declare “brings into query the transparency” of the ANC.

The rand dropped 2 per cent to R19.20 to the US greenback after Brigety’s feedback, its weakest stage since April 2020.

South Africa has stated it’s non-aligned within the battle, however Ramaphosa’s authorities is beneath strain over indicators it’s favouring Russia, for instance by holding joint naval workouts this 12 months.

Ramaphosa has additionally prolonged an invite for Russian president Vladimir Putin to attend a Brics leaders’ summit in Johannesburg in August — a transfer that has backfired on Pretoria after the Worldwide Felony Court docket indicted Putin for battle crimes. South Africa, a member of the ICC, can be legally obliged to arrest Putin if he travels there.

Sydney Mufamadi, Ramaphosa’s nationwide safety adviser, just lately visited the US to elucidate South Africa’s stance and to attempt to protect commerce hyperlinks.

The scandal over the Woman R is prone to overshadow these efforts.

The Woman R, which is owned by Transmorflot, an organization positioned beneath sanctions by the US final 12 months, appeared to modify off its transponder because it made the cease in Cape City after a voyage down the west coast of Africa.

South Africa’s defence minister stated that, after the ship left port, it had delivered a consignment for the nation’s defence forces, however supplied no particulars on what the vessel could have picked up in Cape City.

The South African authorities in January formally denied it had accredited any arms gross sales from South Africa to Russia since Moscow started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Extra reporting by Mary McDougall in London