Ramaphosa says Putin wants end to Russia-Ukraine ‘conflict’

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday night that he was hopeful an agreement would soon be reached to end the “conflict” between Russia and Ukraine, adding that Russian President Valdimir Putin appeared to share the same sentiments.  

“I’m hopeful that it will come to an end sooner, and we’ve been picking up some positive news,” Ramaphosa said while delivering the keynote address at the 30th anniversary of South African company, Ninety-One,

“When I spoke to President Putin, I got a sense that we are looking at an agreement possibly in the making soon, because he too, would like to bring this conflict to an end.” 

Ramaphosa tweeted on 11 March that he had spoken to his Russian counterpart. He said that South Africa had been approached to play a “mediation role” in the “conflict” between Russia and Ukraine, but did not clarify what form this would take. At that stage, Ramaphosa had not yet spoken to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy

On Wednesday, he said he was hoping to speak to Zelenskiy and other leaders “about how this conflict can be mediated and be brought to an end”.

Zelenskiy said this week during a late-night video message that the war would end in a negotiated settlement, but urged Ukrainians to fight on until one had been brokered. 

“All wars end with an agreement,” he said, pointing to a “difficult” but “important” ongoing round of talks between representatives from Kyiv and Moscow.

“Meetings continue,” he added. “As I am told, positions during the talks now sound more realistic. But we still need time, so the decisions are made in the interest of Ukraine.”

In his address, Ramaphosa called on the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, to “get actively involved, as should other leaders to bring this conflict to an end … to end these hostilities to achieve a meaningful and lasting peace”.

The South African government has been harshly criticised by some opposition parties, most notably the Democratic Alliance, civil society and citizens for not condemning the war, which started with Russia’s invasion of the democratic country on 24 February. 

On the day of the invasion, Defence Minister Thandi Modise attended a cocktail party at the home of the Russian ambassador to South Africa, Ilya Rogachev. 

Although the department of international relations and cooperation initially issued a strongly worded statement about the invasion, saying that Russia should immediately cease hostilities, it quickly backtracked, given the historical ties between Russia and the ANC. 

During a parliamentary debate about the war on Tuesday, the deputy minister of international relations, Candith Mashego-Dlamini, urged South Africans not to “take sides”.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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