South Africa slammed remarks Thursday by the US ambassador in Pretoria, who accused the country of having covertly provided arms to Russia despite its professed neutrality in the Ukraine war.
The US envoy to South Africa on Thursday accused the country of having covertly provided arms to Russia, a charge that drew an angry rebuke from Pretoria.
Ambassador Reuben Brigety told a media briefing the US believed weapons and ammunition had been laden onto a Russian freighter that docked at a Cape Town naval base in December.
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“We are confident that weapons were loaded onto that vessel and I would bet my life on the accuracy of that assertion,” Brigety said, according to a video of the remarks.
“The arming of Russia by South Africa… is fundamentally unacceptable.”
But President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office hit back, saying it was “disappointing” that Brigety had “adopted a counter-productive public posture.”
The remarks “undermine the spirit of cooperation and partnership” between the two nations, Ramaphosa’s spokesman Vincent Magwenya said in a statement.
“While no evidence has been provided to date to support these allegations, the government has undertaken to institute an independent enquiry to be led by a retired judge.”
South Africa has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, which has largely isolated Moscow on the international stage.
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The country — an African powerhouse that also wields moral clout for its victory over apartheid — says it wants to stay neutral, and champions dialogue as the means to end the conflict.
But critics cite a number of recent incidents as evidence of a tilt towards the Kremlin.
Earlier this year, it held a joint military exercise with Russia and China, and last month a sanctioned Russian military cargo plane landed at an air force base in the middle of the night to deliver what defence authorities described as “diplomatic mail.”
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