The US ambassador in South Africa accused the country that it provided weapons and ammunition to Russia in its war in Ukraine through a cargo vessel that docked in secret at a Naval Base near Cape Town in December for three days.
According to multiple South African media outlets, Ambassador Reuben Brigety stated that the US is certain the equipment was transported to Russia after being loaded onto the Russian vessel from the Simon’s Town Naval Base.
The ambassador called the alleged arming by Russia “extremely grave” and questioned South Africa‘s neutral position in the war between Ukraine.
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Cyril Ramaphosa, the country’s President, said that an investigation is underway.
The president responded that the matter was being investigated and we would be able speak about it in due time when asked about the issue in the parliament.
He refused to make any further comments, saying that an investigation was needed.
Brigety said at a Pretoria press conference that the US had “noticed” the docking of the Simon’s Town Naval Base between 6-8 December last year, which he “believed” was a ship loaded with weapons and ammo “as they made their way back to Russia“.
The South African Government, which is a major partner of the US in Africa has repeatedly stated that it takes a neutral stance on the conflict in Ukraine.
In a later statement released on Thursday, the Ramaphosa office confirmed that a Russian vessel named Lady R had docked in South Africa. However, the office didn’t specify where the ship was or the reason for the stop.
The statement criticised South Africa’s ambassador for making public his investigation and stated that there had been an agreement between the US intelligence services to provide any evidence they may have.
Last year, the US sanctioned the Lady R, as well as a Russian firm that was tied to her, Transmorflot LLC. They were involved in the transport of military equipment and arms.
The Russians have had a difficult time supplying ammunition during the war.
Last week, the leader of Russian military company Wagner lamented that his mercenary troops in Ukraine were allegedly facing severe shortages.
Recent evidence of South Africa’s closeness with Russia has led to the accusation that it is effectively on Moscow’s side.
In January, it hosted Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in talks. This gave him a stage to blame the West on the war in Ukraine.
South Africa then allowed the Russian and Chinese Navy to conduct drills near its east coast a few weeks later.