South Africa has joined other countries in calling on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday with explosions heard across the country. Its foreign minister warned a “full-scale invasion” was underway.
South Africa’s government on Thursday called for a peaceful resolution of the escalating conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine hours after Moscow attacked its Western-backed neighbor. Russia has attacked Ukraine in what experts say could be the start of war in Europe over Russia’s demands for an end to NATO’s eastward expansion.
In a statement by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, South Africa said it was dismayed at how the conflict has escalated amid calls for diplomacy to prevail.
“Armed conflict will no doubt result in human suffering and destruction, the effects of which will not only affect Ukraine but also reverberate across the world.
“No country is immune to the effects of this conflict. As the UN Secretary-General has indicated, the conflict will have a huge impact on the global economy in a moment when we are emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, and so many developing countries need to have space for the recovery,” the statement said.
“South Africa calls on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine in line with the United Nations Charter, which enjoins all member states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice are not endangered.”
South Africa said that in light of the escalating conflict, it calls on all parties to resume diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the concerns raised by Russia.
“South Africa continues to support and encourage regional initiatives such as the Minsk Agreements, and we welcome the work of the Normandy Format, the Trilateral Contact Group and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).”
The country has also called on the UN Security Council to help find a lasting solution to the conflict.
For a long time, there had been tensions between Russia and Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, but the situation started getting worse in early 2021 when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged U.S. President Joe Biden to let Ukraine join NATO. Russia didn’t like this, and started sending troops near its Ukraine border for “training exercises” in spring last year and later increased it.
Russia had invaded Ukraine in 2014 when rebels backed by President Putin had seized large areas of eastern Ukraine. Since then, they have fought Ukraine’s army.
Russia has been increasing its presence on the African continent in recent years and supporting it through aid, trade, military training, among others. The latest conflict will affect the availability of resources and aid that many African countries rely on. African countries that rely on imported oil and gas like South Africa will also be affected by the conflict. South Africa and Russia have strong economic ties. Both are members of Brics – a grouping made up of the world’s emerging economies.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Biden has announced new sanctions against Russia. He said Putin “chose this war” and that his country would bear the consequences.