The US ambassador to South Africa has accused the country of supplying arms and ammunition to Russia for its war in Ukraine via a cargo ship which secretly docked at a naval base near Cape Town for three days in December.
Ambassador Reuben Brigety said the United States was certain the equipment was loaded onto the Russian ship at Simon’s Town Naval Base and then transported to Russia, according to reports of his comments from several South African media. .
Ambassador says Russia’s alleged arming is ‘extremely serious’ and questioned South Africasupposed neutral position in the war in Ukraine.
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The country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said an investigation was underway.
Asked in parliament about weapons and ammunition, the president replied that “the question is under study, and in time we can talk about it”.
He declined to comment further, citing the need for an investigation to proceed.
Mr Brigety reportedly told a press conference in Pretoria that ‘among the things noted by the United States’ was the docking of a cargo ship in the naval base at Simon’s Town between the 6th and 8th December last year – of which he was “confident” was loaded with weapons and ammunition “as he returned to Russia“.
The South African government, a key US partner in Africa, has repeatedly said it takes a neutral stance on the war in Ukraine.
In a statement released later on Thursday, Mr Ramaphosa’s office acknowledged that a Russian vessel named Lady R docked in South Africa, but the office did not specify where or what the purpose of the stopover was.
The statement criticized the ambassador for going public and said there was an agreement that US intelligence services would provide all the evidence they have to help South Africa’s investigation.
The Lady R and a Russian company linked to it, Transmorflot LLC, were sanctioned by the United States last year after Russia invaded Ukraine for being involved in transporting equipment and supplies. military weapons.
Ammunition supply became a problem for Russia during the war.
The head of Russia’s Wagner military company complained last week that its mercenary soldiers in Ukraine reportedly faced severe shortages.
Recent displays of South Africa’s closeness to Russia have opened the country up to accusations of effectively siding with Moscow.
He hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks in January, giving him a platform to blame the West for the war in Ukraine.
A few weeks later, South Africa allowed warships from the Russian and Chinese navies to carry out exercises off its east coast.