International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor has insisted that South Africa will not dump Russia because other countries want it to do so.
Pandor said South Africa has historical ties with Russia dating back to Struggle days and in the post-Cold War era the two countries have economic, trade and diplomatic relations.
She said their wish was for a peaceful end to the conflict in Ukraine.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant of arrest against Russian President Vladimir Putin and urged 123 countries who are signatories to the Rome Statute to arrest him.
South Africa will host the BRICS summit in Durban in August where leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and China are expected to attend.
South Africa has said it was waiting for a legal opinion on the ICC arrest warrant.
But Pandor, speaking at a joint economic co-operation meeting with Russia this week, said no one can tell South Africa to dump Russia. The meeting was attended by senior Russian officials.
“You see, there is a great deal of media interest in our meeting because there are some who don’t wish us to have relations with an old historical friend. We have made it clear that Russia is a friend and we have had co-operative partnerships for many years including partnerships as we combated the apartheid regime, which decimated our people and our country. While we are friends with many in the world, we cannot become sudden enemies at the demand of others,” said Pandor.
South Africa has been put under pressure to act on the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Putin.
The ANC has said it was talking to its ministers on how this matter should be handled.
The government said it was seeking a legal opinion on it and would advise as soon as it received it.
South Africa was slammed by the opposition and civil society in 2015 when it refused to carry out the arrest warrant against former president of Sudan Omar al-Bashir.
Bashir had been charged by the ICC for crimes against humanity and genocide over the conflict in the Darfur region.