Pretoria - The Ukrainian Embassy in South Africa has been accused of recruiting mercenaries to help the Eastern European state fight Russian forces, “in violation of international law” and the “status of diplomatic missions”. This came days after the Russian Embassy was defaced with red paint allegedly by South Africans who are sympathetic to Ukraine on Friday last week, according to sources.
In a tweet released today, the Russian Embassy in South Africa said the Ukrainian Embassy had enlisted the services of hired guns to supplement its forces and firing power back home. Ukrainian president Volodymy Zelensky has repeatedly called on foreign fighters to come forward and help defend his country. The first war in Europe since 1945 broke out last week after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to attack Ukraine. Putin said his “special military operation” was aimed at “demilitarising and denazifying” his neighbouring country - a motive rejected by the Ukrainian government and Western powers. The Russian Embassy tweet said the recruitment of mercenaries was being done through a group called the Ukrainian Association of South Africa.
“[The] Ukrainian Embassy in SA is involved in recruiting and sending mercenaries to fight in Ukraine. This is a grave violation of international law in terms of the status and functions of diplomatic missions, “ said the Russian Embassy in SA. “Ukrainian Association of South Africa published an instruction to join the so-called International Legion of Defence of Ukraine. Step 1: Contact Embassy in our country. Thus we learn that diplomatic staff in a number of countries are involved in mercenary activities,” it added in the second tweet. The Russian Embassy’s Twitter handle also shared a screenshot of what appears to be a document posted on the website of the Ukrainian Association of South Africa.
According to the screenshot, which purports to show information posted on the website on March 6, the Ukrainian Association of South Africa was facilitating the recruitment of locals who wanted “to join the International Legion of Defence of Ukraine”. The website further advised potential recruits to “apply to the Embassy of Ukraine in your country”. It also advised them to “arrive at the embassy with documents for an interview with the Defence Attache and visa arrangements with the Consul”. Efforts to reach the Ukrainian Embassy in South Africa proved unsuccessful on Friday.
Pretoria News contacted the embassy and asked to speak to its spokesperson. However, a woman who answered the phone said we should make an appointment before we could be allowed to interview the Ukrainian Embassy’s spokesperson. She declined to give her name. Pretoria News could not trace members of the Ukrainian Association of South Africa as very little was known about the group. It’s unclear whether it has any links to the organisers of the “Support Ukraine” march.
Yani Meyer, the organiser of the “Support Ukraine” march scheduled for today in Pretoria, could not be reached for comment. His phone rang unanswered. The South African government could not be reached for comment on allegations its own territory was being used to recruit mercenaries in violation of international law. Phumla Williams, the spokesperson for the Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS), could also not be reached for comment.
When contacted, presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said: “The presidency is not aware of this matter and reiterates the president’s repeated call for mediation and negotiation.” Pretoria News was also told “a handful of people” threw red paint at the wall of the Russian Embassy in Pretoria last week. It is understood that security has been beefed up at the embassy. The Ukrainian-Russian war broke out on Thursday last week after months of tensions between Russia and America over the future of Ukraine.