The United States’ ambassador to South Africa accused the government on Thursday of supplying Russia with weapons and ammunition for its war in Ukraine via a cargo ship that moored discreetly at a naval base near Cape Town for three days in December.
On Thursday, questions were raised in South Africa’s parliament, and President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that an investigation was underway.
According to numerous South African news outlets, Ambassador Reuben Brigety stated that the US was certain the equipment was transferred onto the Russian vessel at the Simon’s Town naval facility and subsequently taken to Russia.
When word of Brigety’s remarks broke, Ramaphosa was in Cape Town answering questions in Parliament.
When asked about the weapons and ammunition, the president said, “the matter is being looked into, and in time we will be able to speak about it.”
Ramaphosa declined to elaborate, citing the need for an inquiry to be completed.
John Steenhuisen, the leader of the political opposition, asked the president if South Africa was “actively arming Russian soldiers who are murdering and maiming innocent people?”
Steenhuisen also requested confirmation from Ramaphosa that “weapons of war” were placed onto the Russian ship.
Russia’s ammunition shipments have become a source of contention during the war. Wagner, the chief of Russia’s private army, claimed last week that his mercenary men in Ukraine were facing severe shortages.
In a statement issued later Thursday, Ramaphosa’s office acknowledged a Russian ship named the Lady R docked in South Africa, but the office did not say where or what the purpose of the stop was.
The statement criticised the American ambassador for going public and said there was an agreement that U.S. intelligence services would provide whatever evidence they have to aid South Africa’s investigation.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US sanctioned the Lady R and a Russian firm linked to it, Transmorflot LLC, for being complicit in the transfer of military equipment and weaponry.
Brigety stated on Thursday that South Africa’s alleged arming of Russia during its invasion of Ukraine was “extremely serious” and called South Africa’s ostensibly neutral posture into doubt.
The Associated Press has confirmed that the Lady R docked at the Simon’s Town naval facility during the time period mentioned by Brigety.