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Activists head to Russian embassy in Pretoria, demanding immediate release of anti-war activists

General Industrial Workers Union of SA president Mametlwe Sebei. File Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

General Industrial Workers Union of SA president Mametlwe Sebei. File Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

Published May 20, 2022

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Pretoria – Members of the General Industrial Workers Union of SA (Giwusa) were on Friday scheduled to march to the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Pretoria, in a picket dubbed the day of international solidarity with Russian anti-war activists.

Mametlwe Sebei, Giwusa president told IOL that the protesters joined the international calls for the release of Dzhavid Mamedov and other anti-war activists.

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“For two and a half months now, Putin’s regime has been at war with Ukraine.

“Right from the start, tens of thousands of Russians have resisted and bravely spoken out against the war and regime, at serious risk of political persecution and arrest,” said Mametlwe.

“During this time, more than 15 000 people have been detained, many facing police violence, torture, and lengthy imprisonment.

“Dzhavid Mamedov is a socialist, anti-war activist, campaigner for women's and LGBTQ+ rights, student trade union organiser, and participant in the resistance to the Lukashenko regime in Belarus, and the Putin regime in Russia.”

He said Mamedov has been arrested for the third time for his anti-war stance.

“Now they are trying to fabricate a criminal case against Dzhavid, and his next arrest could land him a long prison sentence of between 5 and 10 years. He must be protected! Dzhavid, is of course, not alone,” said Sebei.

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“Kirill Ukraintsev, leader of the recent Courier’s strike and the editors of the student journal DOXA, which has taken a principled anti-war position are also arrested amongst many others.

“Now the Independent Union of Journalists, that has been defending those arrested and repressed is now being investigated for ‘extremist activities’.”

Sebei said Giwusa was demanding that Mamedov and all anti-war protesters be released immediately.

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“We are also calling for all working class and progressive formations to join the picket in Pretoria, and to send letters of protest addressed to the Russian ambassador, Ilya Igorevich Rogachev,” said Sebei.

In March, President Cyril Ramaphosa thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin following a phone call between the two where the South African president sought to gain an understanding of the situation unfolding between Russia and Ukraine.

“I outlined our position on the conflict that has unfolded as well as our belief that the conflict should be resolved through mediation and negotiation between the parties and – if need be – with the help of agencies that can help bring a solution to the conflict.

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“President Putin appreciated our balanced approach. We believe this position enables both parties to subject the conflict to mediation and negotiation.

“Based on our relations with the Russian Federation and as a member of BRICS, South Africa has been approached to play a mediation role,” Ramaphosa tweeted.

The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that “demands” Russia “immediately” withdraw from Ukraine, in a powerful rebuke of Moscow's invasion of its neighbour.

South Africa, however, elected to abstain from voting.

Earlier this month, DA leader John Steenhuisen, who recently returned from his six-day Ukraine visit, has pledged South Africa’s support for that country and vowed that he would not stop putting pressure on the South African government to change its stance on the conflict.

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