South Africa’s army chief visits Moscow amid US tension
South Africa downplayed reports that an army delegation is visiting Moscow for talks on enhancing military cooperation, days after a row erupted with the US over allegations that Pretoria supplied weapons to Russia.
South Africa’s army chief Lawrence Mbatha is in Moscow for talks with military officials and will visit military educational institutions, the defence force said in a statement Monday.
Mbatha was invited by his Russian counterpart and the bilateral meeting “was planned well in advance,” the statement said.
“South Africa has military-to-military bilateral relations with various countries in the continent and beyond,” the defence force said.
The army “receives numerous military delegations into the country and sends its own delegation to other countries to discuss matters of mutual interest,” it said.
Russia’s state-run Tass news service reported on the visit earlier Monday. It said a South African army delegation is visiting Russia for talks on enhancing military cooperation between the two nations and improving their combat readiness, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.
The visit comes at an awkward time for South Africa, which has adopted a neutral stance over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been trying to defuse a tit-for-tat with the US over allegations that it supplied weapons to Moscow.
Pretoria has denied any knowledge of the armament shipments but has appointed an independent judge to investigate the matter.
Its Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said on Sunday that the spat had been resolved with the US and South Africa is unlikely to face any repercussions.