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By Cheryl Kahla

Content Strategist

SA-Russia bilateral talks criticised amid war crime investigation

Pandor and Lavrov will hold a news conference on Monday, however, the meeting between the South African and Russian foreign ministers was criticised for being insensitive.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met his South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor, on Monday for bilateral talks to exchange views on regional and multilateral issues.

Pandor meeting with Lavrov

Both ministers delivered remarks for the media before commencing their private talk, however, the meeting was criticised for being insensitive and in bad taste.

Pandor and Lavrov are expected to hold a news conference later on Monday.

WATCH: Minister Sergey Lavrov arrives in SA

Lavrov’s visit to the country created more questions than answers among South Africans, and many wanted to know how Minister Pandor (or South Africa) benefits from the discussions.

It’s speculated that Russia could be seeking mining rights or UN votes.

Trade between SA and Russia

South Africa has been a trade partner with Russia for years, with Russian exports to South Africa totalling $506m, according to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity[1] published in 2020.

Out of the $506 million in exports from Russia, copper exports accounted for $169 million.

Meanwhile, South Africa exported goods worth R587 million to Russia, of which $135 million was the export of manganese ore.

War crimes in Africa

Some South Africans also wanted to know if Pandor would address the alleged crimes against humanity committed by Russian mercenaries in Africa.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch in May 2022, Russian forces in the Central African Republic “appeared to have executed, tortured and beaten civilians since 2019”.

At the time, the HRW called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the allegations with a view to prosecuting the individuals involved.

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Wagner Group investigated

A Russian military security contractor, the Wagner Group, had been linked to operations in the Central African Republic – incidents the United Nations said in April it would investigate.

UN experts[2] called on authorities and local governments “to comply with their obligations under international law to hold accountable all perpetrators of grave violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law committed on their territory”.

This would include “unhindered access to justice and redress to all victims of violations, including abuses committed by Russian private military and security personnel”.

Some of the incidents highlighted during the investigation took place in Kouki, Nana-Bakassa, Bossangoa, Bambiri and Alindao.

Russia-Africa summit

Meanwhile, Lavrov’s visit to South Africa comes ahead of the Russia-Africa summit in July 2023. The summit was postponed to 2022 due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

The South African military will hold a joint military exercise with Russia and China from 17 February. This is likely to further damage ties between South Africa and European countries.

Additional sources:

  1. The Observatory of Economic Complexity
  2. Wagner Group, OHCHR statement

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Human Rights Naledi Pandor Russia Ukraine