South Africa loaded weapons onto Russian vessel, U.S. envoy says

South Africa loaded weapons onto Russian vessel, U.S. envoy says

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The US believes South Africa loaded weapons and ammunition onto a Russian vessel docked on the nation’s foremost naval base in December, Washington’s envoy to South Africa mentioned on Thursday.

U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety advised a press roundtable that the USA took the matter critically and had raised considerations about arming Russia throughout current diplomatic and commerce discussions with a visiting South African delegation in Washington.

Brigety, who attended the conferences in Washington, mentioned the weapons and ammunition have been positioned on the ship, the Woman R, which docked on the Simon’s City naval base exterior Cape City between Dec. 6 and eight.

“We’re assured that weapons have been loaded onto that vessel and I might wager my life on the accuracy of that assertion,” Brigety mentioned, in accordance with media excerpts from the roundtable. “On condition that, the deviation from South Africa’s coverage of nonalignment by the actions of Dec. 6 by means of 8 are inexplicable.” Brigety supplied no proof of his assertion.

The allegations inject a flamable new aspect into the USA’ already strained dealings with main growing nations over President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Whereas the Biden administration has touted its meeting of a global alliance in assist of Ukraine as a central overseas coverage achievement, the image may be very totally different past Europe and a handful of U.S. allies in Asia.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa advised parliament on Thursday that he was conscious of the ambassador’s remarks however didn’t affirm or deny the claims. “I do know the matter is being regarded into,” Ramaphosa mentioned, referring to the docking of the ship. “In time we will speak about it.”

Later, in a press release, the president’s workplace expressed concern and referred to as the ambassador’s remarks “disappointing.”

“The ambassador’s remarks undermine the spirit of cooperation and partnership that characterised the current engagements between the U.S. authorities officers and a South African official delegation,” Ramaphosa’s workplace mentioned, acknowledging that the problem of the ship was raised in conferences. “The Woman R matter was mentioned and there was settlement that an investigation might be allowed to run its course and that the U.S. intelligence providers will present no matter proof of their possession,” it added.

The leaders of different growing nations, together with Brazil, Colombia and India, have expressed criticism for the West’s place on the conflict or maintained deep financial ties with Moscow regardless of Western efforts to starve the Kremlin of money. Much less prosperous nations have been additionally the toughest hit by a spike in meals costs that accompanied the invasion.

Whereas the African Union has condemned Russia’s invasion, many nations on the continent have tried to stay on the sidelines. South Africa has refused to take a stand or denounce the invasion, saying the battle needs to be resolved by means of negotiations. When Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited South Africa final yr, Ramaphosa’s overseas minister mentioned her nation wouldn’t be bullied into taking sides.

South Africa was a part of a sizable bloc of African nations that abstained throughout a collection votes on the United Nations demanding Russia withdraw its troops.

In February, South Africa and Russia held joint naval workout routines, together with China, off the South African coast. U.S. officers had expressed concern concerning the timing of the workout routines.

Images of the arrival of the unmarked Russian ship on the navy base and the loading of containers from vans onto the ship late at night time have been extensively circulated on social media in South Africa.

South African authorities by no means formally defined the arrival of the vessel, nor acknowledged its existence.

Ukraine attaining some success in besieged Bakhmut, Russia says

In Washington on Thursday, State Division spokesperson Vedant Patel declined to debate the specifics of Brigety’s feedback however mentioned the U.S. authorities had “severe considerations” concerning the ship incident. He mentioned the Biden administration stays dedicated to the “affirmative agenda” of its relationship with South Africa.

“What I’ll say is that we’ve been fairly clear and haven’t parsed phrases about any nation taking steps to assist Russia’s unlawful and brutal conflict in Ukraine,” he mentioned.

A U.S. official advised The Washington Publish in February that the USA had despatched a proper warning to the South African authorities that any entity that interacted with the ship might face secondary sanctions.

Washington has issued repeated warnings to China, Russia’s strongest accomplice, towards offering the Kremlin weapons it’d make use of in Ukraine. It has additionally slapped sanctions on Iran for supplying Russia with drones which were used to assault Ukrainian cities.

South Africa’s relations with Moscow date again to the Chilly Struggle, when the now ruling African Nationwide Congress was backed by the Soviet Union in its battle towards the apartheid authorities. A number of senior ANC officers acquired navy coaching within the Soviet Union, together with two of its post-apartheid presidents, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

A worldwide divide on the Ukraine conflict is deepening

The chief of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen, mentioned Brigety’s feedback have been “chilling and deeply troubling.”

“This growth proves not solely that South Africa is just not nonaligned in Russia’s conflict on Ukraine, however that President Ramaphosa and his authorities have already lied to South Africa and the world as to our nation’s involvement on this devastating battle,” Steenhuisen mentioned in a press release. “The ANC is siding with Russia for one cause alone: as a result of the Russian Federation is funding the ANC, and thus infiltrating and destabilizing South African democracy,” Steenhuisen mentioned.

As U.S. tensions with South Africa over its ties with Moscow intensify, commerce is seen as a method the Biden administration might exert leverage. Consultants have warned that Washington might select to droop or expel South Africa from the African Development and Alternative Act, or AGOA, program, which presents choose nations preferential entry to U.S. markets by eliminating import tariffs.

Ryan reported from Washington. John Hudson in Washington contributed to this report.

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