Oil shipments to India and China aren’t the only ways Russia is skirting Western sanctions. Some countries are simply not playing along with the West’s calls to isolate Russia from the global economy. In The Wall Street Journal Gabriele Steinhauser and Benoit Faucon explain a recent shipment to South Africa by a Russian ship known to carry weapons, writing:
A Russian merchant ship whose owner has allegedly carried weapons for the Kremlin turned off its transponder last month before surreptitiously docking at South Africa’s largest naval base, where it delivered and loaded unidentified cargoes, according to witnesses and a senior U.S. official.
South Africa has declined to say what the ship was carrying or what was loaded onto it at the Simon’s Town navy base. The country’s defense minister shrugged off U.S. concerns, saying Washington “threatens Africa, not just South Africa, of having anything that is even smelling of Russia.”
The visit by the ship, the Lady R, owned by Russian shipping company MG-FLOT LLC, has strained relations between Washington and Pretoria. It also demonstrates the difficulty for the U.S. and its allies of enforcing sanctions against Moscow.
MG-FLOT didn’t respond to emails sent to addresses listed online seeking comment. The Russian Embassy in Pretoria and the Kremlin also didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment.
A senior U.S. official said Washington was concerned by the support the South African armed forces provided to the Lady R, including allowing it to enter and move cargo at a naval base while its automatic identification system was switched off.
For two nights, during which Simon’s Town was plunged into darkness by nationwide power cuts, a mobile crane moved crates off and onto the 122-meter-long vessel under the watch of armed guards, according to witnesses and photos viewed by The Wall Street Journal.
“There is no publicly available information on the source of the containers that were loaded onto the Lady R,” the U.S. official said.
The Lady R left Simon’s Town the morning of Dec. 9. When the ship started transmitting a position again in the evening of that day, it was anchored more than 100 miles east of Simon’s Town, tracking services showed.
Since mid-December, the vessel has been anchored off the coast of Mozambique, where it pulled into the port of Beira over the weekend, according to ship-tracking services, which give its destination as Istanbul. From Istanbul, it is a relatively short trip to Russian Black Sea ports.
Kobus Marais, a lawmaker and defense spokesman for South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance, said he was told that the Lady R delivered ammunition from Russia, although that would normally be imported through commercial ports, he said.
The U.S. imposed sanctions on the Lady R and MG-FLOT on May 8, when the company was using the name Transmorflot LLC. Washington said the company and its vessels had been shipping weapons for the Russian government.
In November, when the U.S. learned that the Lady R was headed toward South Africa, the U.S. Embassy alerted the South African government to the fact that the vessel was under sanctions, the senior U.S. official said.
Under U.S. law, Washington can sanction any entity, person or country that provides services to a sanctioned vessel.
If you’re willing to fight for Main Street America, click here to sign up for the Richardcyoung.com free weekly email.