Ambassador of the Russian Federation to South Africa Ilya Igorevich Rogachev says he believes that in modern military conflict, the concept of neutrality simply does not exist and the actions of Western forces have proved that.
"I do not think in the modern world, there is a place for neutrality... You cannot remain neutral. They (Western collective) will not allow you to remain neutral," Rogachev says, adding that his point is that neutrality is signified by the phrase "you are either with us or against us."
Rogachev was speaking in Johannesburg on Wednesday afternoon at an ANC dialogue on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
He used the platform to emphasise that Russia's aggression on Ukraine was borne out of necessity following the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) as well as the training of Ukrainian troops and the provision of military machinery and equipment to Kyiv.
"If you look at the situation from a geopolitical perspective, it (conflict) is not between Moscow and Kyiv. It is between us and the collective West."
Rogachev indicated that several sanctions had already been imposed on Russia and that those aligned with Moscow would naturally suffer.
While South Africa has often been criticised over its foreign policy and non-aligned position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Department of International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Director General Clayson Monyela said South Africa was proving to be a vital role player in spearheading peace negotiations around the conflict.
Video: Noni Mokati
He said the fact that Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky was willing to receive the seven African heads of state during the African Peace Mission was indicative of the fact that if SA and the continent had taken sides, it would have been difficult for the African leaders to engage Zelenskyy and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
Monyela, however, warned that SA's active non-alignment should not be confused with the country being neutral.
"We are not neutral. You are neutral, you are oblivious to the suffering of people," he said.
Meanwhile, ANC NEC member and member of the ruling party's International Relations Committee Lindiwe Zulu said: "The reason why we pursue non-alignment is that the concept (you are with us or against us) is not ours, it belongs somewhere. We don't believe in that concept. "
She added that the ANC was aware that its position would be unfavourable for many and that the party was also aware that it may have to deal with the consequences of its decision.