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Putin congratulates South Africa’s Ramaphosa on re-election, an indication of warm ties

By Thomson Reuters Jun 17, 2024 | 7:08 PM

(Reuters) – Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin congratulated South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa on his re-election as president on Monday, reflecting continued good relations with Pretoria despite uncertainty over Moscow’s more than two-year-old invasion of Ukraine.

“Hope was expressed for continued joint work on further strengthening of the partnership between Russia and South Africa in all its aspects,” a statement said on the Kremlin website, referring to Putin’s telephone call to Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa was re-elected by parliament on Friday. But the failure of his African National Congress party to win a majority in last month’s election, for the first time in 30 years, prompted the formation of a government made up – so far – of five parties.

Russia and Ukraine have jostled for support from African nations since the 2022 invasion, with each country’s foreign minister embarking on several of regional tours.

South Africa’s longstanding links with Moscow – as with a number of African states – date back to Soviet times, when Moscow was a prominent backer of liberation movements and the fight to end apartheid, spearheaded by the ANC.

South Africa initially denounced Russia’s February 2022 invasion, but has since adopted a more nuanced position, including abstaining in several votes in the U.N. General Assembly condemning Russian actions.

South Africa attended the Swiss-hosted “peace summit” on Ukraine over the weekend. But it declined to sign the final communique, along with India, Indonesia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, even though some contentious issues were omitted in the hope of drawing wider support.

South Africa found itself in a dilemma as host of a 2023 meeting of the BRICS grouping of countries and it considered inviting Putin to attend despite a warrant from the International Criminal Court of Justice to arrest the Russian leader on allegations of deportation of Ukrainian children.

In the end, Putin chose not to attend.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski in Winnipeg; Editing by Matthew Lewis)