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Russia, Ukraine battle for sympathy in southern Africa

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Themba Hadebe/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Ukraine is finding it hard to win attention in Southern Africa. Kyiv's ambassador to South Africa says the region retains a lot of sympathy for Moscow dating from the apartheid era.

In the 1970's and 80's, the Soviet Union supported several anti-colonial movements in southern Africa.

"You will see that there is a very strong sentiment of South Africans about Russia being USSR and being very insistent in struggling against apartheid and colonialism. The only thing that we are forgetting is that there were fifteen countries within the USSR, and a lot of current management of the country were studying in Ukraine as well. We lost this opportunity to speak this narrative loudly after 1991, because Russia took all the legacy of this on it’s own and we were trying to build our state, we were developing our economy, our relations in the region and Africa obviously was not first in priority," said Liubov Abravitova, Ukraine's Ambassador to South Africa.

Accounts of discrimination and maltreatment of African nationals trying to flee Ukraine have also hurt the country's image. 

Ukraine's security forces stopped Africans, mostly students from getting on trains in favour of citizens and other European nationals.

On Wednesday, South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe abstained from a UN vote condemning Russia's attack on Ukraine.