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Pretoria fails to mention Russia in non-committal reaction to Bucha atrocities

Images of the devastation in Ukraine are displayed at a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York City after an appearance via video link of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on 5 April 2022. The Security Council session was called to consider Ukrainian allegations of mass murder of civilians in the town of Bucha by Russian soldiers. Hundreds of bodies, some bound and shot at close range, were discovered in the town northwest of Kyiv after Russian soldiers left. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

South Africa has issued yet another non-committal statement about the Ukraine conflict, this time on Russia’s alleged massacre of scores of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. Pretoria’s statement fails to name Russia as the alleged perpetrator.

Asked by Daily Maverick to comment on Russia’s alleged atrocities in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha — which have sparked outrage around the world — the Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, said: “South Africa is deeply concerned at the recent reports of civilian casualties in Ukraine.

“We once again reiterate the urgent need for a cessation of hostilities and the conclusion of political dialogue. South Africa once again urges the parties to comply with international human rights and humanitarian law including the Geneva Conventions.”

(See: Zelensky vilifies Russia over atrocities: ‘They killed entire families.’

Over the past few days, international journalists have reported seeing scores of dead Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, many with their hands tied together and evidently shot in the head at point-blank range, after the retreat of Russian forces.

pretoria russia bucha
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the United Nations Security Council in New York City via video link on 5 April 2022. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Moscow has vehemently denied that Russian forces killed any civilians and say the claims have been invented to discredit Russia.

(See: Satellite images show bodies lay in Bucha for weeks, despite Russian claims.)

Pretoria’s non-committal statement about the Bucha killings reflects the neutral stance that South Africa has adopted on almost all of its statements and positions on the war, refusing to identify Russia as the aggressor. Last month Pretoria abstained from a United Nations General Assembly vote that condemned Moscow’s aggression and demanded that it withdraw from Ukraine.

South Africa later proposed a General Assembly resolution calling for humanitarian access to bombed Ukrainian cities, but without mentioning Russia as the cause of the humanitarian crisis. Pretoria defended this decision by saying that citing Russia would provoke Moscow into rejecting the resolution, whereas Moscow’s support was crucial for the proposed humanitarian aid to be delivered. 

Pretoria’s resolution did not make it to the vote because another prior resolution on humanitarian aid, which did mention Russia’s bombardment of Ukraine, was passed by an overwhelming majority.   South Africa abstained from that resolution too. DM



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