South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says an independent inquiry has found “no evidence” for claims that his country supplied weapons to Russia.
The United States ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, had claimed the Russian ship Lady R was loaded with arms and ammunition at a naval base near Cape Town last December.
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The inquiry found that the Russian cargo ship instead delivered armaments that had been ordered for the South African National Defence Force in 2018.
Ramaphosa said there was no evidence that any arms had been exported based on interviews with 50 people and a review of more than 100 documents.
“When all matters are considered, none of the allegations made about the supply of weapons to Russia have been proven to be true,” Ramaphosa said on Sunday.
“None of the persons who made these allegations could provide any evidence to support the claims that had been levelled against our country.”
Ramaphosa said the allegation had “had a most damaging effect on our currency, our economy, and our standing in the world, in fact, it tarnished our image”.
Ramaphosa said he would only be releasing an executive summary of the report due to security considerations.
The South African leader ordered an inquiry led by a retired judge after the US ambassador told a media briefing in May that he was “confident” weapons and ammunition had been loaded onto a vessel bound for Russia.
South Africa’s foreign ministry later said that Brigety had apologised for his comments and the US diplomat subsequently wrote on social media that he was grateful for the opportunity to “correct any misimpressions left by my public remarks”.
South Africa, whose ruling African National Congress has historical ties to the Soviet Union, has maintained friendly relations with Russia since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, prompting criticism from the US and other Western countries.
Under Ramaphosa, the country has hosted drills with the Russian Navy and declined to join Western condemnation of Moscow or sanctions against the Russian economy.
Last month, Ramaphosa hosted Russia and other major developing economies, including China and India, for the BRICS summit in Johannesburg.