South Africa denies US allegations of arms sales to Russia.webp

South Africa denies US allegations of arms sales to Russia – Portal

JOHANNESBURG, May 12 (Portal) – South African officials on Friday dismissed US allegations that a sanctioned Russian ship collected weapons from a naval base near Cape Town late last year, a move investors fear may have been made could prompt Washington to impose sanctions.

The US ambassador to South Africa said Thursday he was confident a Russian ship loaded weapons from the Simon’s Town base in December, suggesting the incident was not consistent with Pretoria’s neutrality stance on the Ukraine conflict.

Western diplomats have been alarmed by South Africa’s holding of naval exercises with Russia and China this year and the timing of a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

South Africa is one of Russia’s key allies on a continent divided over its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, but says it is impartial and abstained from voting on UN resolutions on the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the conflict in Ukraine in a phone call on Friday with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa, the Kremlin said.

Ramaphosa’s office said Thursday that an inquest led by a retired judge would look into the allegation. On Friday, an arms control minister and a foreign ministry spokesman said the country did not authorize arms shipments to Russia in December.

“We have not approved any arms shipments to Russia, … they have not been sanctioned or approved by us,” Communications Minister Mondli Gungubele, who was chairman of the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) when the alleged arms shipment to Russia took place, told 702 Radio.

South Africa’s Defense Ministry said on Friday it would state its position on the government probe.


Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), wrote on Twitter that his department would be speaking to US Ambassador Reuben Brigety and that Secretary of State Naledi Pandor would be speaking to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken later in the day.

Neither Gungubele nor Monyela said whether or not an unauthorized shipment had left South Africa. Monyela did not respond to a request for comment.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Friday declined to comment on the specific allegations against South Africa, but reiterated the government’s position on any country supporting the Russian war effort.

“We have consistently and strongly urged countries not to support Russia’s war. We don’t think anyone, anyone should make it easier for Mr. Putin to kill innocent Ukrainians, period,” Kirby said.

He declined to comment on the possibility that the shipment was a private transaction and not authorized by the South African government.

After departing Simon’s Town, the vessel “Lady R” sailed north to Mozambique, according to Refinitiv shipping data, and spent January 7-11 in the port of Beira before continuing to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

According to the data, on February 16, it arrived in the Russian port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea.

The United States imposed sanctions on the Lady R and Transmorflot LLC, the shipping company they are associated with, in May 2022 on the grounds that the company “transports arms for the (Government of Russia)”.

fear of sanctions

Washington has warned that countries that provide material support to Russia could be denied access to US markets.

Authorities in the opposition-ruled Western Cape, a key center for exports and tourism, said they feared losing a market for commodities such as oranges, macademia nuts and wine.

“Our ties with the US bring in billions of rand,” said the province’s finance minister, Mireille Wenger, echoing concerns of business lobby group Busa. “It makes absolutely no economic sense to jeopardize the relationship.”

Visiting South Africa in January, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said any breach of US sanctions against Russia would be dealt with “quickly and severely”.

The arms turmoil has put pressure on the rand currency, which is already weighed down by worries over a power crisis. It hit an all-time low early Friday before regaining ground.

Reporting by Kopano Gumbi. Edited by Alexander Winning

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