Ukraine’s foreign minister baffled by SA’s abstention from UN resolution condemning Russia

Ukraine’s foreign minister baffled by SA’s abstention from UN resolution condemning Russia
Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba. (Photo: Hollie Adams / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Dmytro Kuleba says that by abstaining from the United Nations resolution, South Africa is turning a blind eye to Russia’s war crimes.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kubela, says he cannot understand why South Africa did not support a resolution in the UN General Assembly on 12 October condemning Russia for holding illegal referendums in occupied Ukraine last month to try to legitimise annexing four provinces.

“I cannot find any single reasonable argument why South Africa did not support the principle of territorial integrity that [Wednesday’s] resolution defends,” Kuleba said in an online briefing for African journalists on Thursday.

“It’s not just about Ukraine. It’s about the fundamental universal principle of territorial integrity,” Kuleba said. He has just completed the first African tour by a Ukrainian foreign minister, visiting Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Kenya. 

The ruling ANC cherishes its relations with Russia because of the Soviet Union’s support to the liberation struggle. But Kuleba recalled that in the 1980s, as a member of the United Nations, Ukraine had presided over the UN General Assembly committee against apartheid and racial discrimination.

“We did everything we could as a member of the United Nations to help South Africa to leave apartheid behind and to build a fair and just society and country based on equality and mutual prosperity.

Read in Daily Maverick: “SA abstains on a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia… again

“So for these and other reasons, I really cannot explain why South Africa abstained. And why relations with Russia are more important than anything else.”

The General Assembly resolution titled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine: defending principles of the UN Charter” was carried overwhelmingly, with 143 nations for, five against and 35 abstentions. Of these, 30 African nations 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 and we reject all actions that undermine the purposes and principles of the UN Charter”.

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But South Africa had abstained from the vote because it felt some elements of the resolution did not contribute towards the goal of sustainable peace in Ukraine. She did not specify which.  

Kuleba suggested he could understand why a country like the Central African Republic, which is militarily dependent on Russia, had abstained from the vote. 

Yet other “independent proud nations who do not depend on Russia militarily, also abstained. These abstentions are not abstentions towards Ukraine. This is an attempt to be neutral and abstain from… evaluating the war crimes committed by Russia, the killed children, the raped women, from the capture of territory. 

“These abstentions are not about neutrality. These abstentions are about turning a blind eye on these awful crimes committed against the people of Ukraine and the territory of Ukraine.”

Kuleba said he could understand why some nations had remained neutral in the early days of the invasion, when it was still possible to have illusions that Russia could be stopped.  

Read in Daily Maverick: “Ahead of special UN session: Failure to condemn Russia could backfire for Africa, warns Ukraine MP

But by now, as Ukraine liberated cities from Russian occupation and discovered 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 say we want to be friends with both you, Ukraine, and Russia. 

“It’s the same as 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 guy who survived attempted murder. 

“It’s time for those countries that play the game of neutrality to seriously reconsider. Because their position doesn’t look nice any more.” 

Kuleba said he was pleased that all four of the nations he had visited over the last 10 days had voted for the General Assembly resolution. This included Senegal, which had abstained from the first General Assembly resolution on 2 March condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. 

He said that on his African tour he had addressed “a few false narratives of Russian propaganda that still find their audiences in African countries”.

“The first lie is that Russia had no other choice but to attack Ukraine — because Ukraine was going to become a member of Nato. This is simply not true. Back in 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, our country was officially a neutral state. This was in our law. But Ukraine’s neutrality did not prevent the Russian attack.

“Russia tries to present it this way in order to legitimise its actions.”

He also asked why, if Russia was so concerned about a neighbouring state intending to join Nato, it had not attacked Finland.  

“The second false Russian narrative is that Russia and Ukraine are one nation, and therefore Putin has a right to impose his will on Ukraine. In fact, we are very different nations with our own languages, culture, and history. Imagine your neighbour coming to you and saying your language, culture and history do not exist, and 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 states that it seeks negotiations, but what they really propose are only ultimatums which boil down to Ukraine ceasing to exist.”

Kuleba said the purpose of his African tour was not to demand African countries take sides, but to build new, quality partnerships between Ukraine and African nations.

Read in the New York Times: Documenting Atrocities in the War in Ukraine

Ukraine offered many things to Africa: steady and reliable supplies of grain to ensure food security; its vast experience in digital transformation and digital governance; agricultural technologies which could raise the effectiveness of food processing; education and student exchanges; and trade opportunities. 

Kuleba said he had 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, though, that since the UN-brokered agreement in July to lift Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s seaports to allow grain exports, more than 830,000 tonnes of grain had been delivered to African states. And the world price for wheat, as a result, had decreased by 5%.

He said Ukraine was committed to extending the agreement in November and beyond. 

“We will also look for ways to make our agriculture products even more accessible, specifically to African partners.” 

He confirmed that Ukraine would hold a Ukraine-Africa conference in the first half of next year. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Nothing baffling about SA’s decision – the majority find it difficult to discern right from wrong in just about everything!

    • Eon van Wyk says:

      They are too busy stealing and will only care once it affects their feeding trough.

      The fact that they sent ANCYL people to “monitor” the bogus referendums Russia held, makes me wonder how much cash was offered. Lets see if they can pay salaries now.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Spot on. Look at just about everything that the ANC does, it is illogical, baffling and racist, it ends up costing the poor their futures.

  • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

    This is not the first time that South Africa has failed to condemn or even criticise the Russian brutality of bombing only civilian targets in Ukrainian cities. It seems that SA is totally supportive of Russian atrocities, not only silence while the civilized world has denounced such barbarity but the SA defence minister recently addressed a Russian military conference in a show of support . The ANC youth league, and self-appointed monitors travelled to Russia trying to legitimize the recent ‘sham elections’ in Ukraine

  • Confucious Says says:

    The problem is that Kuleba is using reason and logic. You just have to accept that the ANC has neither, nor morality!

  • Gerrit Marais says:

    Dog does not bite the hand that feeds it!

  • Andrew Hoyle says:

    Please DM it is not South Africa that didn’t vote it is only the ANC 90% of South Africa is with Ukraine.
    Let the ANC put up a referendum on the people of South Africa, which will show that the idiots representing South Africa do not represent SA.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      I wouldn’t be so sure. The majority voted for this government so unfortunately they do represent the idiots in the ANC with their idiot votes.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Dear Foreign Minister – I feel your pain and support you and Ukraine 100%. Whilst most of us are aghast, hugely disgusted and angered with the official SA position, please realise that in the ANC government, one is dealing with the most false, corrupt, wicked, parasitic, hypocritical and obnoxious bunch of morons that could possibly exist on planet earth. No morals, integrity, ethics or even common decency. They forget their history and struggle, and cosy up to the most murderous and brutal dictators and regimes. They are intrinsically and pathetically anti-West on just about everything whilst willingly and knowingly turning a blind eye to the evil, mass-murderer that is the KGB thug that is the hideous Putin. The ANC government is increasingly modelled like Putin’s Russia ie a corrupt criminal predatory syndicate that is sucking the lifeblood of this country. They are in it to steal as much as they can and that is why they are so blindly and stupidly loyal to the diabolical Putin. Forget SA, it is becoming a pariah like the scumbag regimes that we all know about.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    It is not South Africa that is behaving in this abhorrent manner with regard to Russia’s invasion of another sovereign state, it is the ANC that is abstaining and the ANC has by now lost its right to speak on behalf of the majority of South Africans.

  • John Trafford says:

    Absolute nonsense from the morally bankrupt leaders of our country. I cannot imagine what drove them to make this decision. A latent attachment to BRICS?? or a large trough of oligarch blood money? Certainly nothing that benefits our hungry people.

  • andrew farrer says:

    Dear Dmytro Kubela, what you need to understand is that while the anc has been morally bankrupt for decades, due to the flows of looted state cash having been significantly strangled by the exposure of state capture, their criminal organisation is now also fiscally bankrupt and getting paid by putin not to go against russia.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Assume that Ukraine defeats the Russian thug, outright and without doubt, what will the ANC’s reaction be? Will there be a reaction? Will there act dumber than there are now?

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    There is only one word that aptly and totally describes the ANC. They are a bunch of…..

  • Henri Staub says:

    Andrew Hoyle is spot on. Our ANC government do not represent the majority view of the informed people of RSA. Disgraceful.

  • Andrew Wright says:

    Follow the money!!

  • Johan Buys says:

    Enough! It is dead easy spouting platitudes about ANC must fall, I can carry on for days about how idiot voters continue voting the same morons into power. That solves nothing. What resolves problems is doing something. Me, I have no control over who votes for who. Me, I can sort out supplying most of my electricity (at scale of 250 workers) Get off your lazy arses. When you do the math, it makes economical sense too.l

  • Neil Parker says:

    Mr Kuleba’s comments must be addressed by no less than the President of South Africa.

    “But South Africa had abstained from the vote because it felt some elements of the resolution did not contribute towards the goal of sustainable peace in Ukraine. She did not specify which. ”

    Which elements Mr President ? Be specific. And we are not asking – we are demanding answers. We have had enough of this travesty of justice.

    “South Africa considers the territorial integrity of states, including that of Ukraine, to be sacrosanct and we reject all actions that undermine the purposes and principles of the UN Charter”.

    If you do not have any clear answer to Question 1, then you need to explain why our abstention is not a clear contradiction when viewed against this statement. Otherwise it will not be just Mr Kuleba who does not understand our position. Nobody will understand.

    Finally Mr President, was the ANC youth league in line with the official view of the African National Congress when it supported Russia’s sham referendums. Yes or no please .

  • Hugo Luyt says:

    The ANC’s stance is very consistent. Ukraine must put a committee together to talk about the issue, decide on a strategy, then engage their partners, get input into the way forward, and then submit the report for evaluation and further discussions… which of course will need another committee.

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