Be careful of what Russia tells you - Ukrainian ambassador to South Africa

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Ukranian Ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova.
Ukranian Ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova.
Phill Magakoe / AFP
  • Ukraine's ambassador to South Africa says, since Russia's invasion, the situation has worsened.
  • Ambassador Liubov Abravitova has warned of "massive problems" if Russia is not stopped.
  • She refuted claims by Russia that mercenaries from South Africa are being recruited to fight for Ukraine.

Ukraine's ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova, refuted claims that local mercenaries are being recruited to fight the war against Russia.

Abravitova believes Russia is using "all the bad stories and narratives", and "just transforming" the words [to fit their narrative].

She was speaking at the Cape Town Press Club on Friday, where she delved into South Africa's stance on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

ROLLING COVERAGE | UN says 564 civilians killed so far in Ukraine, including 41 children

On Friday, the Russian Embassy in South Africa tweeted that Ukrainian diplomats in SA are involved in recruiting and sending mercenaries to help Ukraine fight the war.

"This is a grave violation of the international law in terms of status and functions of diplomatic mission," the tweet read.

"When Russia is providing a narrative, you are starting to think maybe something is wrong about it. I would be very careful," Abravitova said.

This handout picture released on February 21, 2022
Ukrainian Armed Forces at an unknown location of Ukraine, as tensions with Russia rise.

In February, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky went on television and asked foreign volunteers to take up arms in his country's defence.

"Everyone who wants to join Ukraine's side against Russia. Each particular country has its set of regulations on this sort of thing. The number of people calling and asking us how they can help... Sometimes I receive calls, and people ask how they can help. I tell them, you can help to volunteer. I tell them they can help with finance. But they say no, they want to fight," Abravitova said.

"The number of people, from even Madagascar, Mauritius, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana … they are calling and asking how they can help. There is not a single South African that does not know my cellphone number," she added.

READ | SA abstains from voting on UN General Assembly resolution demanding Russia withdraw from Ukraine

Abravitova said there was a procedure to help the Ukraine fight, and those interested would be informed officially.

"I cannot say more," she said.

Abravitova also said she is yet to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa.

"I do believe that President Ramaphosa is a very influential mediator, a very experienced one, and I am sure that he knows that he has to listen to both sides. We are ready to negotiate. My president is always open to negotiation. We want to negotiate according to the rules of international law, and we want to respect everyone, and Putin as well to respect our territorial integrity and sovereignty," she said.

READ | 'Putin appreciated our balanced approach': Ramaphosa calls Russian president to discuss Ukraine war

On Thursday, Ramaphosa called Russia's President Vladimir Putin to discuss the conflict.

He said, in a tweet, that he had wanted to "gain an understanding of the situation that was unfolding between Russia and Ukraine".

During the call, Ramaphosa outlined the government's position that the conflict should be resolved through mediation and negotiation.

Ramaphosa also reaffirmed his commitment to further develop bilateral relations with Russia.

Abravitova said diplomacy in Africa is the tool to silence the gun.

"It must not be a political intervention for short-term gains. It must not be silence when the war goes on. The devastation that can come will be bigger. As soon as we can stop Russia, the fewer problems we will have in the future.

"My country is destroyed. I don't know how much will be needed to restore the country. One million children have left the country already. We cannot even get a ceasefire to get water and supplies to areas," she said.

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