Ramaphosa, Zelenskiy hold talks amid allegations of weapon supply to Russia

By Monique Vanek

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa held talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday, amid allegations that the country supplied weapons and ammunition to Russia, despite Pretoria having taken a neutral stance on its invasion of Ukraine.

“Anyone who helps an aggressor with a weapon will be an accomplice with all the consequences,” Zelenskiy said in an statement after speaking to Ramaphosa remotely from Rome. He said he called on Ramaphosa “to join together with other countries of the world, all continents, and Africa in joint work to implement our peace formula.”

US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety in a media briefing on Thursday said that weapons had been loaded onto a Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, at Cape Town in December. South Africa’s presidency said Brigety’s comments were “disappointing” and no evidence had been produced to back up the claim. At the same time, officials agreed to start an independent investigation.

South Africa and the US also sought on Friday to make amends after Brigety was summoned in protest over his accusation.

Both sides pledged partnership and a commitment to working together, even as neither addressed the veracity of his claim that South Africa is sending weapons to Russia for the war in Ukraine. 

The spat had led to a new round of tension between the US and the African nation. South Africa has so far refused to condemn Russia’s invasion despite pressure from the US and its allies.

Zelenskiy and Ramaphosa also discussed the peace formula, justice and the fact that “our world should be united by the rules of international law,” according to the statement.

A day earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Ramaphosa at Pretoria’s initiative on the “strategic partnership” between the two nations, the Kremlin said in a statement on Friday. 

The statement also said that Putin supports the idea of involving a group of African leaders in discussing the prospects for resolving the war in Ukraine.

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