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‘Is this how Madiba would have reacted to Russia’s aggression?’ Ukrainian ambassador asks Ramaphosa

11 March 2022 - 19:03
Ukranian Ambassador to SA Liubov Abravitova addressed the Cape Town Press Club on the Russian war and Pretoria's response.
Ukranian Ambassador to SA Liubov Abravitova addressed the Cape Town Press Club on the Russian war and Pretoria's response.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

Ukraine ambassador to SA Liubov Abravitova says Russia’s legacy of assistance in the fight against apartheid is being used to turn a blind eye to atrocities in her home country.

Abravitova addressed the Cape Town Press Club on the war being waged by Russia against Ukraine, and SA’s response.

She said Ukraine was under heavy shelling from Russian forces.

“I hope this is what President [Vladimir] Putin explained to the president of SA, his excellence President Cyril Ramaphosa, to gain ‘an understanding of the situation that was unfolding between Russia and Ukraine’,” she said.

She was referring to Ramaphosa's comment on Thursday night that he had made a phone call to Putin.

“A child died of dehydration because of the Russian invasion. Is that what you call 'the unfolding situation'? Violence, murders and crimes against humanity. Is that what the beacon of democracy of this continent calls conflict? Would this be a balanced approach of Madiba?” said Abravitova.

She described the war as a “human catastrophe happening at the heart of Europe”.

Abravitova said Ukraine also assisted SA in its fight against white minority rule.

“Already, for five years ... I have been working in SA in the shadow of the so-called Russian legacy of assistance of the Russian Federation to the struggle against apartheid. It seems that this narrative is comfortable to keep someone’s eyes closed when one has to recognise and call by name the issue.

“Ukraine was part of the USSR, ladies and gentlemen. As the Ukrainian Republic of those times, we were one of the founders of the UN.”

She said Ukraine played a big role in the struggle against apartheid. 

Abravitova said Ukraine’s contribution was probably behind Ramaphosa’s call to Putin.

“Russia’s war against Ukraine didn’t start 16 days ago,” she said. “It started in 2014. It started from lies of Russia. It grew into bigger, horrific lies — lies that transformed the policy of Russia — and since February 24 it brought us to the unconditional full-scale war of the biggest country in the world against Ukraine on the territory of Ukraine. On its sovereign territory — I want to stress this.”

She said Putin had threatened the world with a nuclear war and had decided on behalf of Russians that their future would be one of isolation and economic suffering.

“The impact of this war is going to be globally devastating. You already feel [it] through the prices of cooking oil, diesel, petrol — but there is another dimension that you are not thinking about, maybe. The direct loss from the war ... including casualties, among personnel, have in the first five days of the Russian war cost Russia $7bn. The cost of war on Russia is likely to be $20bn per day. This is money spent on killing Ukrainian civilians and bombing Ukrainian infrastructure.

“As I speak now, Ukrainians are hiding in bunkers, shelters, subways or basements of their houses. Millions left their homes, their dreams and became refugees. Hundreds are dying. Men are taking guns to protect their families and our motherland.”

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