South Africa’s ANC Youth League is facing sharp criticism for endorsing Russia’s referendums in occupied parts of Ukraine which many countries have dismissed as unacceptable, in violation of the United Nations Charter, and illegal under international law.

The referendums were designed to pave the way for Moscow to annex the territories.

The endorsement came after members of the group accepted invitations from Moscow to act as international observers of the Kremlin-orchestrated votes. The Ukrainian Association of South Africa expressed disappointment in the youth league’s stance while the ANC itself is remaining silent on the issue.

The head of the ANC Youth League’s Subcommittee on International Relations, Khulekani Skosana, commended Russian President Vladimir Putin on Twitter.

Skosana posted a clip of his interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

“We stand in solidarity with all the oppressed people of the world,” Skosana said in an interview on Newzroom Afrika. “It’s not just Donbas, we stand with people of Palestine, Western Sahara. We will always stand with those who are oppressed and those who don’t have anyone to defend them.

“The revolution will not be televised, that’s why we went to see for ourselves as young people of the liberation movement of President Nelson Mandela.

“We are children of a liberation movement,” he added, “that fought for a very long time for South Africa to be where it is. We are not spoon-fed for how we are to see the world. The Ukraine-Russian conflict affects us directly,” he said, giving for example, “the prices of a lot of things. If we want to have a perspective, we don’t depend on information that has been cooked for us.

“We went as an observer mission…to observe.”

Dzvinka Kachur, president of the Ukrainian Association of South Africa, disputed the ANC argument saying that youth league members were simply being used by Russia to try to legitimize a process that falls far short of international laws on referendums.

Moscow has since released vote tallies showing support in all four regions where the referendums were held for five days beginning Sept. 23.

Kachur dismissed the tallies saying Russia doesn’t control all of these areas.

“Yes, they may be controlling almost completely the territory of one region of Luhansk, but they don’t control Donetsk, they don’t control Zaporizhia and they definitely don’t control Kherson,” she said.

Ukrainians have reported armed soldiers going door-to-door in occupied parts of the country to collect votes for self-styled “referendums” on joining Russia.

Kachur added that the Ukrainian Association is disappointed in the ANC government for not reacting to the Youth League’s statements despite claiming that they are neutral in this conflict. The Ukrainian Association says Skosana’s comments are anything but.

“It is strange that the ANC Youth League could actually send observers to Russia on a very controversial referendum referred to as a sham referendum by the global community,” said political analyst Ralph Mathekga. “I don’t know whether this will give them traction in South Africa’s politics.”

Mathekga said he wonders who paid for the trip and whether the decision to go was taken within the ANC and where the decision was taken.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the United States is preparing a new round of sanctions to punish Russia for any annexation move and a new $1.1 billion arms package for Ukraine that will be announced soon. 

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