June 16, 2023

Russia-Ukraine: Ramaphosa’s security team stranded in Poland over aviation regulations

Russia-Ukraine: Ramaphosa’s security team stranded in Poland over aviation regulations

By Biodun Busari

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa’s advance team obligated to offer critical security in Kyiv, Ukraine, got stuck on their plane in Poland on Thursday night because of aviation regulations and bureaucracy.

Reports revealed that as Ramaphosa engaged in talks with his Polish counterpart, President Andrzej Duda, his security detail and a media contingent were stranded at Warsaw Chopin Airport. 

Ramaphosa, who was in the company of his international relations minister Naledi Pandor and special adviser Bajani Chauke, paid a courtesy call to Duda ahead of his peace talks to bring an end to the war between Russia and Ukraine.

The “road to peace” journey has been faced with challenges including technical, red tape and extreme logistical issues even before the flight left South Africa, Sowetan Live said.

The journalists covering the mission travelled abroad with specialised police officers including the presidential protection services and the army, among others, were not allowed to disembark in Poland.

Sowetan Live reported that the flight with more than 120 people on board, left South Africa around 1.30 am on Thursday, and encountered obstacles two hours before arriving in Warsaw.

The flight was flagged in Mediterranean waters after it failed to get clearance to fly over Italian airspace. The plane flew around in circles about six times before it resumed its flight on the route to Warsaw.

The flight finally landed at the Warsaw Chopin Airport in Poland at about 1.18 pm and while on the flight, the Presidency tweeted that Ramaphosa had arrived for his working visit to Poland and Ukraine.

The journalists on board were told there were “issues” with the plane that was meant to transport them to Rzezouw as the “chartered flight had not arrived”. 

An hour into the wait, they were told that Ramaphosa had departed in his jet, named Nkwazi, to Rzesouw to make his way to Kyiv, Ukraine.

Members of the special forces were still in the plane when Ramaphosa started his journey to Kyiv. At this stage, it was not clear if his counterparts from Egypt, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia and Congo Brazzaville had arrived.