UKRAINIAN WORLD CONGRESS

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South African Ukrainians protest against Lavrov’s visit

#StandWithUkraine
January 25,2023 801
South African Ukrainians protest against Lavrov’s visit

On Monday, the Ukrainian diaspora and friends of Ukraine in South Africa picketed the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in Pretoria because of the arrival of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the country, the Ukrainian Association of South Africa reported.

Protesters took to the streets with placards and slogans saying that Lavrov is a war criminal just like Putin.

“Ukraine is suffering great losses, though it used to feed South Africa and many other African countries, to which it supplied grain. Now we cannot do this, because our country is at war, while South Africa is concluding friendly agreements with Russia, which invaded our country,” said one of the protesters.

“I would tell Sergey Lavrov to stop lying. He is the main liar of Putin and the entire Kremlin regime. Let them stop fooling the whole world about what they are actually doing in Ukraine. They must admit that this is nothing else but a genocidal colonial war against the Ukrainian people and stop it – withdraw their troops immediately. And the most important thing is to stop the vile bombing of Ukrainian hospitals, schools and residential buildings,” another protester said.

The Ukrainian Association in South Africa handed over a petition to the SA Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor:

We, the Ukrainian Association of South Africa, call on the South African Government to immediately and unequivocally condemn Russia’s colonial war on Ukraine and to stop any military and economic cooperation with Russia until the Russian military forces are withdrawn, Ukrainian borders are restored and the reparations for the human casualties and infrastructural damages are made in full.
For 11 months now Russia is using military aggression against the sovereign country of Ukraine, threatening the world with a nuclear attack and increasing hunger and poverty on the African continent, all of which in violation of UN Charter, Human Rights, Nuclear safety and any moral and ethical norms.

In the past, Ukraine has offered refuge to South African anti-apartheid activists and was not silent or neutral when South Africans were fighting for their freedom. During two years between 1963-1965 only, 328 anti-apartheid activists were trained in Odesa, and further financial and moral support was provided. Today, Russia during long eleven months of this war has already destroyed thousands of schools, hospitals, power stations, apartment blocks and houses, with the estimated damage at least $100 billion, it has turned over 8 million of Ukrainian women and children into refugees and has killed and seriously injured over 1,329 children.

The consequences of the Russian invasion have already hit the most vulnerable people in South Africa by increase of petrol price, food shortages, financial instabilities and the reduction of funds for developmental causes.

Today, January 23, 2023, South Africa holds meeting with Russia on bilateral cooperation. From economic standpoint siding with Russia makes no sense for the country, as its annual trade with Russia constitutes mere ZAR 15 billion, as opposed to ZAR 700 billion with EU (SA’s largest trading partner) and ZAR 290 billion with USA.

Is South Africa going to learn from Lavrov’s experience on corruption and looting public money? Lavrov has been the Minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation for almost 20 years, representing Putin’s autocratic system where public money of Russian citizens are used to shut down the freedom of speech and to fund yachts, palaces and off-shore accounts of Russian oligarchs.

Is democratic South Africa going to learn from a totalitarian regime currently ruling in Russia on how to suppress the freedom of speech? Since March 2022, when Putin signed a new legislation that sends to prison for up to 15 years those who speak against Russian invasion of Ukraine, hundreds if not thousands of Russian citizens have been already repressed, and hundreds of thousands have fled Russia trying to save their lives and not participate in the invasive war.

Additionally, South African government has announced conducting joint naval exercises with Russia and China off the coast of Durban in February 2023. What message does this send to the Ukrainian people and the civilized world, after South Africa has been claiming its neutral stance since the very beginning of the Russian full-scale military invasion of Ukraine?

Is South Africa going to learn from Russian army on how to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity?

Since February 2022, international experts and Ukrainian authorities have already documented over 58 000 cases of war crimes committed by Russian army against Ukrainian civilians, including countless cases of atrocities against women and children.

South Africa has chosen freedom and democracy in 1994. We are here to remind South African government about the sacrifices that accompanied the struggle for the attainment of democracy and equality in South Africa. We call on the South African government to make its voice heard and reaffirm the values of human rights and dignity, respect for international law and principle of sovereignty, which are cornerstones of South Africa’s constitution.

We hope that Minister Naledi Pandor will send clear messages to Sergei Lavrov and to Russia:

    • to immediately remove its military forces from the sovereign territory of Ukraine, and to start paying the reparations for the immense human losses and infrastructural damages;
    • to instantly start prosecution of over 58 000 documented cases of war crimes caused by Russian army under orders of the Kremlin’s authorities.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” (Nelson Mandela)

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” (Desmond Tutu)