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Russia just reminded SA that it helped fight apartheid in celebrating 30 years of relations

Business Insider SA
Russia South Africa Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) greets South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (L) during the welcoming ceremony at the Russia-Africa Summit in Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, October 23, 2019. Leaders of African countries have gathered in Sochi for two-days summit. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
  • Russia and South Africa first established diplomatic relations on 28 February 1992.
  • To mark the 30-year anniversary, Russia’s foreign ministry, on Monday, issued a statement detailing the "time-tested friendly relations" with South Africa.
  • The foreign ministry drew attention to its support for the fight against apartheid, noting that Russia provided financial support and military training to the ANC and its armed wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe.
  • The statement made no mention of the current conflict in Ukraine or South Africa’s controversial stance on the invasion.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Russia has reminded South Africa about its role in the fight against apartheid, support of uMkhonto we Sizwe, and BRICS partnership in celebrating 30 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Russia's relationship with South Africa stretches back more than 200 years but it wasn't until 28 February 1992 that official diplomatic ties were established.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic links between the two countries, Russia’s foreign ministry, on Monday, issued a statement – in Russian – chronicling the "time-tested friendly relations" with South Africa.

The statement made no mention of the current crisis in Ukraine or of South Africa's unclear position on the Russian invasion. International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor recently called on Russia to immediately withdraw from Ukraine.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, supported by the ANC, has called for mediation – not a withdrawal – creating tension among the political leadership and uncertainty surrounding South Africa's official stance on the conflict.

The Russian foreign ministry's statement deals extensively with South Africa's liberation struggle, led by the ANC, its armed wing uMkhonto we Sizwe, and the Communist Party. A Soviet Consulate was first established in 1942 but was shut down six years later when the National Party came to power and began implementing its policy of racial segregation.

"For the next few decades, our country actively supported the South African people's national liberation struggle," said a translated version of Russia's statement.

"Let's underline that for a long time, the USSR remained the only major state that fundamentally refused contacts with the criminal [apartheid] regime."

Russia South Africa Ukraine
Russian President Boris Yeltsin meeting Nelson Mandela, president of South Africa, after signing the Declaration on friendship. Photo ITAR-TASS / Alexander Sentsov; Alexander Chumichev (Photo by TASS via Getty Images)

Oliver Tambo, in his role as deputy president of the ANC, travelled to Moscow in 1963 "with a request for the support of the armed wing of uMkhonto we Sizwe" noted the statement.

"The Soviet Union not only provided significant financial support to the South African liberation movement, but also assisted in training military personnel…"

During a visit to South Africa in February 1992, Russian foreign minister, Andrei Kozyrev, signed a joint statement on establishing diplomatic relations.

Russia South Africa Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) talks to South African President Thabo Mbeki at the beginning of a working session of G8 Heads of State with representatives of the top five developing nations 08 June 2007 in Heiligendamm, northeastern Germany. (MICHAEL URBAN/DDP/AFP via Getty Images)

Later that year, then-president FW De Klerk undertook an official visit to Russia. In 1999, President Nelson Mandela initialled the Declaration on Principles of Friendly Relations and Partnership between Russia and South Africa in Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin ratified these agreements with President Thabo Mbeki during his visit to South Africa – the first of its kind for a Russian head of state – in 2006.

The statement also described the partnership between South Africa and Russia as part of BRICS.

See also | How South Africa is tied to Russia through R25.5 billion in BRICS cash

"Russia and South Africa are actively cooperating within the UN, BRICS, G20, and in other multilateral formats."

Russia South Africa Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) greets President of the Republic of South Africa Jacob Zuma during the official welcome of heads of delegations of G20 member states. (Photo by Ramil Sitdikov/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)

Within the context of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Russian foreign ministry added that it "was the first to come to the aid of the South African people" following the discovery of the Omicron variant in late November 2021.

This scientific mission, to study the clinical and epidemiological characteristics of Omicron, has also been cited, by a well-placed source in South Africa's government, as a reason to push for mediation between Russia and Ukraine as opposed to messaging around an outright withdrawal.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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