‘You want to put us in a problem. Leave Putin alone’ — SA weighs in on Ramaphosa’s call with Russian president

11 March 2022 - 08:10
By Kyle Zeeman
President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
Image: GCIS President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s phone call discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin has sparked fierce debate, with many questioning the call for SA to mediate in the conflict between that country and Ukraine.

Ramaphosa confirmed on Thursday evening that he had spoken to Putin to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and said he had pushed for “mediation”.

“Thanking His Excellency President Vladimir Putin for taking my call today so I could gain an understanding of the situation unfolding between Russia and Ukraine.

“I outlined our position on the conflict as well as our belief that the conflict should be resolved through mediation and negotiation between the parties and — if need be — with the help of agencies that can help bring a solution to the conflict.”

The president said Putin “appreciated our balanced approach” and, with SA part of Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA), said the country had been asked to mediate in the crisis.

“We believe this position enables both parties to subject the conflict to mediation and negotiation. Based on our relations with the Russian Federation and as a member of Brics, SA has been approached to play a mediation role,” he said.

The Russian government said the call came at the request of Ramaphosa and included a conversation about the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and SA and expanding trade.

“The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to further develop the bilateral strategic partnership, noting, in particular, their readiness to expand trade, economic and humanitarian co-operation, and joint Covid-19 response efforts,” it said.

Several countries have imposed sanctions on Russia, severely restricting world trade with that country over its conflict with Ukraine.

“At the request of President Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of Russia spoke about the reasons for and goals of the special military operation to protect Donbass.

“He also informed the SA leader about the situation regarding talks with representatives of the Ukrainian authorities. The president of SA supported the ongoing political and diplomatic efforts.

“Vladimir Putin and Cyril Ramaphosa agreed to continue their contacts,” the Kremlin said.

The call drew strong reactions, with some accusing Ramaphosa of being “pro-Russia” and asked if he would call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as part of the mediation efforts.

Others welcomed the call and said SA should play its part in helping bring peace to the area.

Many called for Ramaphosa not to get involved in the conflict.