South Africa has strongly rejected the US accusations that it exported arms to Russia in violation of UN sanctions over the Ukraine conflict. The US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, claimed that a Russian ship, the Lady R, loaded weapons and ammunition from a naval base near Cape Town in December 2022. He said the US had evidence of the illegal arms transfers and urged South Africa to take action to prevent further violations.
However, South African officials said they had no record of any approved arms sale to Russia in that period and that they followed strict procedures and protocols when dealing with arms exports. They said they were conducting an internal investigation and cooperating with the relevant authorities. They also said they were disappointed by the US claims and that no evidence had been provided to support them.
The US allegations could have serious consequences for South Africa’s relations with both the US and Russia, two of its major trading partners. South Africa is a member of the BRICS group of emerging economies, along with Russia, China, India, and Brazil. South Africa is also a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which grants preferential access to the US market for certain products from eligible African countries.
South Africa has maintained a neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict and has abstained from a UN vote condemning the Russian invasion. It has also participated in military exercises with Russia and China in February 2023, which were criticized by some as an endorsement of the Russian aggression.
The US has been vocal in opposing any country that supports Russia’s war in Ukraine and has imposed sanctions on several individuals and entities involved in the conflict. The US has also provided military assistance and training to Ukraine’s forces.