May 12, 2023

US ambassador accuses South Africa of supplying arms to Russia

Arresting Putin is 'declaration of war', Ramaphosa warns ahead of BRICS summit

Ramaphosa and Putin

The United States has accused South Africa of supplying weapons and ammunition to Russia in a covert naval operation.

US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, made this allegation which has put more pressure on the foreign policy ties between President Cyril Ramaphosa and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Brigety told local media on Thursday that the US believed weapons and ammunition were loaded onto the Lady R, a Russian vessel under sanctions that docked at Simon’s Town naval dockyard near Cape Town in December, Financial Times said.

“Among the things we noted was the docking of the cargo ship . . . which we are confident uploaded weapons and ammunition onto that vessel in Simon’s Town as it made its way back to Russia,” Brigety said.

Brigety also said that senior US officials had “profound concerns” about the incident, which “does not suggest to us the actions of a non-aligned country”.

The state department said the US had raised the issue directly with South African officials. Spokesman Vedant Patel said: “The US has serious concerns about the docking of a sanctioned Russian cargo vessel at a South African naval port in December of last year.”

“We have been quite clear and have not parsed words about any country taking steps to support Russia’s illegal and brutal war in Ukraine,” he added, “and we will continue to engage with partners and countries on this topic.”

Ramaphosa’s office responded by saying an independent inquiry would be inaugurated under a retired judge to look into the allegations. It also said talks had been held between South African and US officials over the vessel and an agreement to allow investigations to continue.

“It is therefore disappointing that the US ambassador has adopted a counter-productive public position that undermines the understanding reached on the matter and the very positive and constructive engagements between the two delegations,” Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.