May 23, 2024

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A South African army general is in Moscow days after a country was accused of sending weapons to Russia

A South African army general is in Moscow days after a country was accused of sending weapons to Russia

Cape Town, South Africa (AP) – The senior Russian army general and his South African counterpart discussed “military cooperation” during their meeting Monday in Moscow, Russia’s defense ministry said.

The announcement came hours after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s denial accusations against the United States That his country was on the side of Russia The war in Ukraine And they sent weapons to help her.

The Russian ministry said that General Oleg Salyukov, commander of the Russian ground forces, met with the commander of the South African army, Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha, at the Russian General Command headquarters in Moscow.

“The two sides discussed issues of military cooperation and the implementation of projects aimed at enhancing the combat readiness of the armies of the two countries,” the ministry said in a statement. He added, “The meeting between the military leaders resulted in agreements on expanding cooperation between the ground forces in various fields.”

The Ministry of Defense said that a delegation from South Africa will visit a number of “educational and training facilities” of the Russian army.

The South African military said the trip was pre-planned before the US ambassador to South Africa claimed last week that the country had submitted weapons for Russia When a US-sanctioned ship secretly stopped at a South African naval base in December.

The South African government denied that the stopping of the Russian freighter was related to an official arms sale, although it did not categorically rule out an arms deal taking place.

Ramaphosa said an investigation was underway to determine whether anyone carried weapons on the Russian-flagged cargo ship at Simon’s Town Naval Base near Cape Town.

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Ramaphosa used his weekly message to the nation on Monday to reiterate South Africa’s non-aligned position regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The president’s statement was seen as a response to US Ambassador to South Africa Robin Brigetti, who questioned South Africa’s neutrality in the Ukraine war while making allegations about an arms shipment.

Brigitte was later summoned to a meeting With the Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa.

“We do not accept that our unbiased position favors Russia over other countries,” Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly message. “Nor do we accept that he should jeopardize our relations with other countries.”

Ramaphosa added: “We have been firm on this point: South Africa has not and will not be drawn into a conflict between world powers.”

He also hinted that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit South Africa for a meeting of leaders of the BRICS economic bloc in August. The Kremlin has not confirmed that Putin plans to attend the BRICS summit.

Such a trip would embroil South Africa in yet another diplomatic mess because the country is a signatory to the treaty that established the International Criminal Court, which He issued an arrest warrant Putin in March for alleged war crimes, including the kidnapping of children from Ukraine.

Since the indictment, Putin has traveled rarely, and only to countries that are close allies of Russia. The states parties to the treaty would be obliged to arrest the Russian leader.

While both Russia and South Africa described the meeting of the two countries’ top army generals on Monday as part of a normal bilateral trip, it is imperative to increase scrutiny of Africa’s more advanced economy, which is seen as an influential country in the developing world.

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South Africa is the only African country in the BRICS bloc, which also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Weapons claims aside, South Africa also hosted Russian and Chinese warships and took part in naval exercises off its east coast in February, which coincided with the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Brigetti, the US ambassador, said last week that US officials “respect South Africa’s policy of neutrality and non-alignment in international affairs” but “have noted a series of issues that indicate that the South African government is in fact not unbiased.”

The Associated Press independently verified that the cargo ship Lady R stopped at the South African naval base for at least three days in December, Brigetti alleged. A review of records by the AP also shows that Ms. R is linked to a company that has been sanctioned by the United States to transport arms to the Russian government and assist it in its war effort in Ukraine.

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Magome reported from Johannesburg. Associated Press writer Dasha Litvinova in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this report.