US Ambassador Accuses South Africa Of Arming Russia In Ukraine
The U.S. ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, accused the country of providing weapons and ammunition to Russia for its conflict in Ukraine.
Reuben Brigety says the weapons were provided via a cargo ship linked to a sanctioned company that docked secretly at a naval base near Cape Town in December.
In response, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that an investigation into the Russian vessel’s visit to the nation’s main naval base had already begun with U.S. intelligence services before Brigety’s public announcement.
Brigety alleged that military equipment had been loaded onto the Lady R at the Simon’s Town naval base from December 6th to 8th and subsequently transported to Russia, raising concerns about South Africa’s supposed neutral position on the conflict and calls for its resolution. Brigety said in comments reported by multiple South African news outlets:
The arming of the Russians is extremely serious and we do not consider this issue to be resolved.
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If South Africa is discovered to be providing military aid to Russia, it could damage the relationship between the United States and a significant African partner, despite South Africa’s supposed neutrality on the Ukrainian conflict.
While Ramaphosa’s office denied any evidence of weapons being loaded onto the Lady R, which is connected to a sanctioned company involved in transporting military equipment for Russia.
Ramaphosa declined to comment further, citing the need to wait for the investigation’s results when asked about the matter in Parliament by opposition leader John Steenhuisen.
MarineTraffic tracked the Lady R off the South African coast in early December, but the ship’s signal was lost on December 5th.
Satellite imagery obtained by AP indicates that a ship with a similar length, colour, and layout as the Lady R docked at the naval base the following day after it left, stayed there through December 8th, and returned to Russia on February 22nd.
In December, South African Defense Minister Thandi Modise stated that the ship only handled an “old order” for ammunition and that arms were offloaded rather than loaded onto it.
Despite South Africa’s claims of neutrality, recent moves including hosting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for talks, allowing Russian and Chinese warships to perform drills off its coast, and a potential visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin in August for a BRICS meeting have led to accusations of taking Russia’s side.