Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kubela says he does not understand why South Africa did not support a United Nations General Assembly resolution on October 12 condemning Russia for holding illegal referendums in occupied Ukraine last month in an attempt to legitimize the annexation of four provinces.
“I find no reasonable argument as to why South Africa did not support the principle of territorial integrity which [Wednesday’s] resolution stands for,” Kuleba said during an online briefing for African journalists on Thursday.
“It’s not just about Ukraine. This is the fundamental universal principle of territorial integrity,” Kuleba said. He has just completed the first African tour of a Ukrainian foreign minister, to Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Kenya.
The ruling ANC cherishes its relationship with Russia because of the Soviet Union’s support for the liberation struggle. But Kuleba recalled that in the 1980s, as a member of the United Nations, Ukraine chaired the United Nations General Assembly Committee against Apartheid and Racial Discrimination.
“We did everything we could as a member of the United Nations to help South Africa emerge from apartheid and build a just and equitable society and country based on equality and mutual prosperity.
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“So for these and other reasons, I really can’t explain why South Africa abstained. And why relations with Russia are more important than anything else.
The General Assembly resolution entitled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine: defending the principles of the United Nations Charterwas won by an overwhelming majority, with 143 nations for, five against and 35 abstentions. Of these, 30 African countries voted for the resolution, none voted against, 19 abstained and five did not vote.
South Africa’s Ambassador to the UN, Mathu Joyini, told the General Assembly that “South Africa considers the territorial integrity of States, including that of Ukraine, to be sacrosanct. holy and we reject all actions that undermine the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.
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But South Africa abstained in the vote because it felt that some elements of the resolution did not contribute to the goal of a lasting peace in Ukraine. She did not specify which one.
Kuleba suggested he could understand why a country like the Central African Republic, which is militarily dependent on Russia, abstained in the vote.
Yet other “proud independent nations not dependent on Russia militarily also abstained. These abstentions are not abstentions towards Ukraine. It is an attempt to be neutral and to abstain… from evaluating the war crimes committed by Russia, the children killed, the women raped, the taking of territory.
“These abstentions are not about neutrality. These abstentions aim to turn a blind eye to these horrific crimes committed against the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian territory. »
Kuleba said he could understand why some nations remained neutral in the early days of the invasion, when it was still possible to have illusions that Russia could be stopped.
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But now, as Ukraine has liberated cities from Russian occupation and uncovered more and more mass graves of murdered civilians and other evidence of atrocities, “how can you still play the game of neutrality and pretend that all this is not happening. And to say that we want to be friends with you, Ukraine and Russia.
“It’s the same thing that you have a culprit and a victim of his crime and you say I want to be friends with both the guy who tried to kill you and you who survived an attempted murder.
“It is time for those countries that are playing the game of neutrality to seriously reconsider. Because their position doesn’t look nice anymore.
Kuleba said he was happy that the four countries he visited in the past 10 days voted for the General Assembly resolution. This included Senegal, which abstained in the first General Assembly resolution on March 2 condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
He said that during his African tour he tackled “some fake Russian propaganda stories that still find their audience in African countries”.
“The first lie is that Russia had no choice but to attack Ukraine – because Ukraine was going to become a member of NATO. It is simply not true. In 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, our country was officially a neutral state. It was in our law. But Ukraine’s neutrality did not prevent the Russian attack.
“Russia is trying to portray it that way in order to legitimize its actions.”
He also asked why, if Russia was so concerned about a neighboring state’s intention to join NATO, it hadn’t attacked Finland.
“The second false Russian narrative is that Russia and Ukraine are one nation, and therefore Putin has the right to impose his will on Ukraine. In fact, we are very different nations with our own languages, culture and history.Imagine your neighbor coming to tell you that your language, your culture and your history do not exist and that your statehood is a mistake.
The third “lie” was that Russia wants peace, but “Ukraine refuses to negotiate”.
Kuleba insisted that Russia had rejected several peace proposals from Ukraine.
“Russia says it’s looking to negotiate, but what it’s really offering are ultimatums that boil down to Ukraine’s demise.”
Kuleba said the purpose of his African tour was not to demand that African countries take sides, but to build new quality partnerships between Ukraine and African nations.
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Ukraine has offered many things to Africa: a steady and reliable grain supply to ensure food security; his extensive experience in digital transformation and digital governance; agricultural technologies that can increase the efficiency of food processing; education and student exchange; and business opportunities.
Kuleba said he discussed with the four African countries the negative consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine on Africa, including its impact on global food security.
He noted, however, that since the UN-brokered agreement in July to lift the Russian blockade of Ukrainian seaports to allow grain exports, more than 830,000 tonnes of grain had been delivered to African states. And the world price of wheat, as a result, had fallen by 5%.
He said Ukraine was committed to extending the deal into November and beyond.
“We will also look for ways to make our agricultural products even more accessible, especially to African partners.”
He confirmed that Ukraine will hold a Ukraine-Africa conference in the first half of next year. DM