The United States has alleged that Pretoria is supplying arms to Russia in a covert navy operation to prosecute its war against Ukraine, despite repeated claims by South Africa that it is neutral and not supporting any side in the war.

US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety on Thursday told local media that the US has evidence to believe weapons and ammunition were loaded on the Lady R, a Russian vessel under sanctions that docked at Simon’s Town naval dockyard near Cape Town in December.

“Among the things we noted was the docking of the cargo ship . . . which we are confident uploaded weapons and ammunition on to that vessel in Simon’s Town as it made its way back to Russia,” he said, in comments reported by South Africa’s News24.

“The arming of the Russians is extremely serious, and we do not consider this issue to be resolved,” Financial Times quoted the US envoy as saying.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said it would respond “in due course”.

The joint naval operation between Russia and South Africa December last year has been queried, casting aspersions on Ramaphosa’s claim that his country is not aligned to any party.

South Africa’s Durban is expected to host a bloc meeting of BRICS in August in which Russian President, Vladimir Putin is expected to participate on behalf of his country that holds the bloc’s membership.


It is not certain if he would be in Durban for the BRICS Summit. South Africa, a member of the ICC, would be legally obliged to arrest Putin if he travels there following an arrest warrant against the Russian leader over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Sydney Mufamadi, Ramaphosa’s national security adviser, recently visited the US to explain South Africa’s stance and to try to preserve trade links.

Lady R is owned by Transmorflot, a company placed under sanctions by the US last year.

The Lady R according to Financial Times appeared to switch off its transponder as it made the stop in Cape Town after a voyage down the west coast of Africa.

After the ship left port, South Africa’s defence minister said it had delivered a consignment for the country’s defence forces, but did not disclose what the vessel may have picked up in Cape Town.

The South African government in January officially denied that it had approved any arms sales from South Africa to Russia since Moscow began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.


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A print journalist with vast knowledge of political developments in Nigeria. Passionate about equity and fairness through robust developmental journalism.


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