'We're kinda experts on Nazism': Germany's South Africa embassy hits back at Russian embassy tweet

A social media post by the German embassy in South Africa has added to the pressure facing 17 African nations who abstained from voting on a UN resolution calling for Russia to withdraw troops from Ukraine.

Countries vote on a UN resolution to condemn Russia on its invasion of Ukraine on 2 March 2022.

Countries vote on a UN resolution to condemn Russia on its invasion of Ukraine on 2 March, 2022. Source: AAP

A social media exchange between the Russian and German embassies in South Africa has drawn attention to the challenging diplomatic position the country finds itself in.

The Russian embassy posted a message on its Twitter account on Saturday thanking subscribers for letters of solidarity from individuals and organisations in South Africa to target "Nazism".

The post appealed to the ties between the two countries, saying: "We appreciate your support and glad you decided to stand with us today, when Russia, like 80 years ago, is fighting Nazism in Ukraine".
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Russian President Vladimir Putin invoked the term "Nazism" in a speech to the Russian security council a week ago. In it, he explained the decision to send Russian troops to invade Ukraine was about the "de-Nazification" of Ukraine.

He addressed Ukrainian soldiers directly in his speech, urging them to seize leadership from their government, who he described as a "gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis".

The German embassy in South Africa responded to the Russian embassy, saying it completely disagreed with the use of the term "Nazism".

"What Russia is doing in Ukraine is slaughtering innocent children, women and men for its own gain. It's definitely not 'fighting Nazism'. Shame on anyone who's falling for his. (Sadly, we're kinda experts on Nazism)."
Russia's government continues to deny it has hit civilian targets or killed civilians in Ukraine. But the UN says their verification processes confirm the civilian death toll in Ukraine continues to rise.

South African government urged to take leadership

South Africa has attempted to maintain a neutral position on the Russian assault in Ukraine, which has included abstaining with 16 other African nations from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution calling for Russia to withdraw military personnel from Ukraine.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said he supports mediation over Russian troop withdrawal.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation has joined the US and EU in urging South Africa to make clear where it stands on the Russian invasion.

"We have urged the South African government to show leadership at this critical moment and press for a ceasefire so that rigorous negotiations on the future can be mapped out," the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement.
Acting US Ambassador Todd Haskell said South Africa cannot maintain a neutral stance.

“We think it’s really important when we look at this unprovoked aggression, this attack against democracy, Russia’s war against Ukraine, Putin’s war on Ukraine — it’s important to say this is wrong,” he said on Johannesburg-based broadcaster eNCA.

Russia has historical, political, military and economic ties with African nations. A number of African countries have used Russian military resources including training, intelligence, equipment and even mercenaries to engage in local conflicts.

South Africa, like Russia, is a member of the BRICS group of emerging economies. Diplomatic ties were established between South Africa and Russia 30 years ago in 1992, although ties began in the 1960s when meetings began the Soviet Union, the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party.

The Russian Foreign Ministry details the connections in a Facebook post last month, the 30th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties.

"For the next few decades, our country has actively supported the South African people's national liberation struggle," the ministry said.

Ceasefire fails

Russia's defence ministry said on Saturday it had resumed "offensive actions" in Ukraine after announcing a ceasefire earlier in the day to allow residents of two besieged cities to evacuate.

The ceasefire was meant to open humanitarian corridors for the exit of civilians from the strategic port town of Mariupol and neighbouring Volnovakha.
"Due to the unwillingness of the Ukrainian side to influence nationalists or extend the regime of silence, offensive actions have been resumed at 18:00 Moscow time (Sunday, 2am AEDT)," defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a video briefing.

Mariupol city officials delayed the evacuation, saying: "The Russian side does not adhere to the ceasefire and has continued shelling both Mariupol itself and its environs."

Mr Konashenkov said that "not a single civilian" was able to exit via the humanitarian corridors.

Russia intensifies information war

Russia's government has ramped up its efforts to silence critical media reporting and voices in the country, blocking Facebook and Twitter and signing into law a bill that criminalises the intentional spreading of what Russia deems to be "fake" reports.

Over the past 10 days it has also increased the planting of misinformation on social media channels like TikTok as part of its information war where moderation policies are more relaxed compared to Facebook and YouTube.
Ciaran O'Connor, who researches online disinformation at the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said there is one favoured tactic used by Russian state media to create division.

The strategy involves using pro-Russian comments from Western leaders. He points to a TikTok video clip posted this week by Russian news agency RIA Novosti, which featured former US president Donald Trump's recent praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The clip has tallied up more than 4 million views.

"This is one of the first major wars in which TikTok has been at the forefront of events on the ground - both for people watching from afar but also those trying to document events, disseminate narratives and shape perceptions," Mr O'Connor told Reuters news agency.

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5 min read
Published 6 March 2022 at 1:51pm
By Biwa Kwan
Source: SBS News