President Cyril Ramaphosa has shed some light on his recent telephonic conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Thursday, a Russian state news website reported that Ramaphosa requested to speak to Putin about the military campaign in Ukraine.
“At the request of Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of Russia spoke about the reasons for and goals of the special military operation to protect Donbass,” said the site.
“He also informed the South African leader about the situation regarding talks with representatives of the Ukrainian authorities. The President of South Africa supported the ongoing political and diplomatic efforts.”
Ramaphosa on Saturday confirmed the contents of their interaction.
“We had a conversation, he explained to me what was going on.
“He also explained to me why they took the action that they took, and he appreciated the position that we have taken of abstaining from the vote. And we abstained because the resolution did not address all the issues that would engender and encourage mediation and peaceful negotiation,” said Ramaphosa.
The country abstained from voting on the Russia-Ukraine conflict at the UN General Assembly on 02 March.
This as the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that demanded Russia to immediately withdraw from Ukraine.
The resolution was adopted after 141 out of 193 member states voted for the non-binding resolution, while five voted against the resolution.
South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mali, Namibia and Mozambique were among the 35 member states that abstained from the vote.
Defending its decision, South Africa said the conflict involved two members of the UN in an armed conflict, and it was the UN’s responsibility to take decisions and actions that would lead to a “constructive outcome” conducive to the creation of sustainable peace between the parties.
“We expressed to him that we still want the conflict to be subjected to mediation and he accepted that. So we are grateful for the conversation that we had. It happened at our instance, we asked for it because we felt that we needed to hear from him,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa’s government has been roundly criticised over its stance and refusal to condemn Moscow for the raging conflict, that has claimed thousands of civilians’ lives and led to the mass exodus of at least 2.2 million people fleeing Ukraine.
“I will be talking to other world leaders as well to explain the stance and position that we have taken, remembering that there are many other countries that have taken the position that we have taken,” Ramaphosa said.
Meanwhile, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde distanced himself and the province from South Africa’s stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Winde hosted the country’s Ukrainian ambassador on Friday, banning Russian diplomats and staff from events in the Western Cape.
“I met with Ukraine’s Ambassador to South Africa, Ms Liubov Abravitova, where I shared our unequivocal position that we strongly condemn the Russian Federation for its illegal invasion of Ukraine. I also expressed my great sorrow for the loss of life,” tweeted Winde.
“This unprovoked, illegal war, which threatens world peace and the very foundation of the liberal international order, cannot be met by neutrality and silence. It requires all of us to take a stand.”
Additional reporting by Vhahangwele Nemakonde