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Africa South Africa Ukraine War

Ukraine Seeks South African Assistance in Repatriating Abducted Children, and Soldiers from Russia 

President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Ukrainian counterpart President Volodymyr Zelensky met on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly in New York, September 19 2023. Picture: GCIS

In June 2023, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa embarked on a peace mission to Ukraine and Russia, aiming to initiate negotiations to end the Russian-Ukrainian war. The delegation, which included the heads of state from Egypt, Senegal, Congo-Brazzaville, Comoros, Zambia, and Uganda, faced a setback when they were detained at an airport in Warsaw. The mission yielded little progress, leading some to view it as a geopolitical diversion from President Ramaphosa’s domestic challenges. His government has also been accused of bias towards Russia. 

Despite these setbacks, Ukraine remains eager to engage with Africa, particularly South Africa, in facilitating the return of Ukrainian children and soldiers held captive in the conflict.

Ukraine’s ambassador, Liubov Abravitova told NSN that South Africa has shown a commitment to peace discussions at the level of national security advisors in the Ukraine Peace Formula indicating potential interest in participating in the Peace Summit scheduled for June in Switzerland,  

Ambassador Abrivitova said, “We are looking forward to receiving official notification on whether or not South Africa is going to be there. I personally believe that this is important for both Ukraine and South Africa.” Regarding President Zelensky’s potential visit to South Africa, she suggested that planning would likely continue after the South African elections on May 29th.

Speaking to South African journalists who have been invited to Kyiv for a visit, the Special Representative for Ukraine for the Middle East and Africa, Mr Maksym Subkh, said he saw South Africa as one of its most important partners on the African continent. – Linda van Tilburg

The video content has been provided to NSN courtesy of Business Day TV.

Edited Excerpts:

Ukraine want South Africa to play an active role in peace talks with Russia

We consider South Africa as one of our most important partners in Africa as a continent, and we value the efforts that South Africa did. In terms of putting an end to the Russian aggression, we all remember the successful and important visit of the group of African presidents to Ukraine, including President Ramaphosa. They visited Ukraine before going to Russia, which was very important. And we insisted on that. By the way, we told the group of African presidents that we wish you come to Ukraine before you go with them, because you have to see with your own eyes what Russia has done to our people, to the capital. 

They have visited several places nearby the capital, and they saw the destruction there. South Africa is very important. We maintain continuous and consistent dialogue on the highest level, so our presidents talk to each other very frequently. They met physically twice already, once in June 2023 here in Kiev. And the second meeting took place on the side-lines of the 78th General Assembly session in New York in September also last year. As I said, followed by many phone conversations between the two presidents. Also, there is a direct line between the national security advisers of President Ramaphosa and the head of the presidential office.

We also highly value the participation of South Africa in all the rounds of the negotiations on the peace formula on different levels, starting from the level of the ambassadors and ending up by the level of the national security advisors and political advisors, who the last round of which took place in Davos in January this year.

We hope and we believe that South Africa will take an active role and play an active role in facilitating and participating in the first Peace Formula , which we are looking forward to holding and organising in Switzerland. So, we invite South Africa and we hope and believe that President Ramaphosa will be there and will show his support to the peace plan, to the comprehensive peace plan that Ukraine introduced, which is aimed at putting an end to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. As we always say, the peace formula could be an effective tool and instrument for the resolution of conflicts in other parts of the world, including those which are ongoing and unfolding in Africa.

Ukraine Invites South African Companies to Aid in Demining and Reconstruction Efforts

Companies, especially those specializing in engineering, building, and contracting, are urged to explore possibilities to help rebuild Ukraine.  The invitation is open, and we have already extended it through the South African government to include South African companies in the efforts to rebuild Ukraine’s damaged infrastructure, particularly in civil infrastructure. Humanitarian demining is of utmost importance, and Africa’s extensive experience and expertise in this field are invaluable. We welcome the participation of South Africa and other countries in the humanitarian demining efforts in areas polluted by Russian-land mines.

Ukraine-Africa Summit: A Call for South Africa’s Involvement in the Release of Captured Children and Soldiers

We want to express our appreciation to  South Africa for its support to the Ukrainian initiatives, starting with the Peace Formula, ending up with the grain from Ukraine initiative, which I mentioned already. Also, we see a possibility for South Africa to participate in the release of prisoners of war. South Africa has good relations with both Ukraine and Russia, and we see that many issues pertaining to the Russian aggression, to confronting the Russian propaganda, the negative effects that Russia’s invasion against Ukraine bring to Africa and to see to explore the opportunities of our deepening our cooperation with the countries of the continent. We can play a positive role in releasing Ukrainian military men and women, which were imprisoned and still in prison and abducted by the Russians. That’s also an important direction that we are ready to discuss.  

We have other successful examples like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, they have done a lot, and their intermediating efforts and services helped release hundreds of prisoners of war and civilians, including children. So why should South Africa not also become a country that can contribute to the release of prisoners of war and children?

Leaders Should Recall Ukraine’s Role in Their Independence and Higher Education Opportunities

Russia is trying to monopolize the legacy of the Soviet Union. There should be no doubt that Ukraine was a part of all those efforts, which African nations praise and of which African nations are proud when it comes to the history of the British with Russia. Russia calls itself the inheritor of the Soviet Union’s legacy. However, Ukraine was an integral part of that union and played a very substantial role in helping African nations gain their independence. Now, when we hear voices trying to persuade Ukraine to sit at the table, to give concessions, and to accept the matters as presented in the Russian narratives, we always ask the same question. We know from history that African countries achieved their independence after shedding the last drop of their blood to establish their own countries and become sovereign and independent. So, why should Ukraine give up its sovereignty just to appease somebody or to make somebody happy, or to give somebody a chance to regroup and continue its expansion and occupation of the territory of another sovereign country? African nations were committed to fighting until they achieved sovereignty for their countries. We are doing the same because it’s a matter of existence, and you know that very well.

Amidst War, African Students in Ukraine Opted Against Relocating to Russia

We have tens of thousands of students who were studying in Ukraine before the Russian invasion, and we did whatever we could at that time to guarantee their free evacuation from Ukraine. Still, many of them refused to continue their education in Russia, despite receiving offers from the Russian government. Language is not a significant barrier for many of them, especially those who used to study in the eastern part of Ukraine. However, I know tens of examples of students refusing to go to Russia because Russia is considered to be the reason why they had to flee and disrupt their education in Ukraine, the country they had chosen voluntarily.

Linda van Tilburg is a seasoned journalist and producer with roots in both South Africa and the United Kingdom. She began her career as a senior political correspondent for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), where she covered the country’s historic transition from apartheid to democracy. Notably, she was one of the chief correspondents reporting on Nelson Mandela during this pivotal period. Since then, Linda has held various roles, including serving as a newscaster and London Correspondent at Jacarandafm, South Africa’s largest commercial radio station. She pursued a Master’s degree in Global Politics at the LSE and has worked as a political risk analyst for S&P Global (formerly IHS Markit). She has also written articles for News24 and Vrye Weekblad and as a producer for platforms such as (US) and VCNewsDaily (US). Additionally, Linda served as a Newsletter Editor for a collaborative project between Facebook and the Sunday Times and is a regular contributor to