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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 international coverage disaster for President Cyril Ramaphosa over the nation’s ties to the Kremlin and place on the Ukraine conflict.

Reuben Brigety, US ambassador to South Africa, informed native media on Thursday that the US believed weapons and ammunition had been loaded on to the Woman R, a Russian vessel below 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 approach 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 recommend to us the actions of a non-aligned nation”.

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

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

Ramaphosa’s workplace responded by saying an unbiased inquiry could be arrange below a retired decide 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 due to this fact 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 conflict 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 creating 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 conflict with Russia over Ukraine”.

John Steenhuisen, chief of South Africa’s fundamental 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 conflict, however Ramaphosa’s authorities is below stress over indicators it’s favouring Russia, for instance by holding joint naval workout routines 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 Courtroom indicted Putin for conflict crimes. South Africa, a member of the ICC, could be legally obliged to arrest Putin if he travels there.

Sydney Mufamadi, Ramaphosa’s nationwide safety adviser, not too long ago visited the US to clarify 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 below 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 offered no particulars on what the vessel might have picked up in Cape City.

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

Further reporting by Mary McDougall in London