Russia mutiny won’t derail African efforts to end Ukraine war, says South Africa

South African International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor
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PRETORIA,(Reuters) – An aborted mutiny in Russia will not affect efforts by African leaders to seek an end to the war in Ukraine, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said on Tuesday after holding talks with her visiting German counterpart.

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said Saturday’s mutiny by Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin showed that President Vladimir Putin was destroying his own country.

Baerbock’s visit to South Africa came after President Cyril Ramaphosa and other African leaders visited Russia and Ukraine on a peace mission this month.

South Africa has insisted it is non-aligned in Russia’s war in Ukraine. It has faced criticism from Western powers for maintaining close ties to Russia, a historic ally.

Before the visit, Baerbock had said that she wanted to hear South Africa’s view on the “dramatic developments” in Russia and discuss how South Africa can use its weight as an African opinion leader to help end the Ukraine conflict.

Pandor said the “attempted mutiny … will not affect our intention of continuing to engage with both countries as has been agreed by the presidents who were part of the African peace mission”.

The peace mission to Kyiv and Moscow was preliminary and the leaders of both countries had agreed to further meetings in the next few weeks, she added.

Baerbock said Prigozhin’s mutiny “makes it clear once again that Russia’s illegal war of aggression is not just an attack on Ukraine … but that President Putin is destroying his own country”.

Pandor defended South Africa against criticism for abstaining from voting on United Nations resolutions condemning Russia over the war, saying her country was now in a valuable position able to negotiate with both sides.

South Africa has not received a response as to whether Putin would attend a Johannesburg summit of the BRICS group of nations, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, scheduled for August, Pandor continued.

South Africa would theoretically be required to arrest Putin if he attends, as it is a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has issued an arrest warrant for Putin for suspected war crimes.