Officials from both countries said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s security personnel who were to accompany him on his mediation mission to Ukraine on Friday were stopped in Poland, setting up a diplomatic incident.
Ramaphosa’s chief of security, General Wali Rudeh, accused the Polish authorities of being “racist” and of “endangering” the life of their chief, after blocking his men upon arrival at Warsaw’s Chopin Airport.
The Polish government responded on Friday by deeming the remarks “inappropriate”, explaining that some of the people on board the flight from South Africa did not have a license to carry weapons and were therefore not authorized to land.
On Friday, the Polish government said the plane had been “stopped” for non-compliance with entry procedures into the country.
“There were dangerous goods on board, which the South Africans did not have permission to bring,” the Polish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“In addition, there were people on board whose presence the Polish authorities had not been notified in advance,” the text continues.
Earlier today, those stranded “were not allowed to leave the plane with their weapons,” Stanislav Zarin, a Polish government official in the special services, said and remained on board.
The chartered plane left Pretoria early Thursday with about 120 people on board, including members of the South African security forces and journalists who had been following President Ramaphosa on his trip to Kiev as part of a peace-brokering mission led by African leaders. .
Cyril Ramaphosa arrived in the Polish capital on Thursday aboard the presidential plane of South Africa’s Incoise, and then traveled by train to Kiev, where he arrived on Friday, according to the presidency.
The incident at the airport angered General Rahoud, who spoke at an impromptu press conference aboard the chartered plane.
“They are delaying us and endangering the president’s life,” the general said in a video posted on Twitter.
“They say we don’t have permits and we do,” he said, while acknowledging that some members of his team only had copies of the necessary papers. He said, “Look how racist they are.”
Shortly afterward, President Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, called the incident “unfortunate”, adding that it did not harm the safety of the president.
“The remaining mission is proceeding well and as planned,” Mr. Maguinia confirmed, before adding: “The President has arrived in Kiev safely.”
South African officials have begun discussions with their Polish counterparts to break the deadlock and allow the security team and the journalists, who are also detained, to continue their journey.
On Friday afternoon, some reporters were allowed to disembark after more than 24 hours on the runway.
After Kiev, African mediation should head to northwest Russia to meet there on Saturday with Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg.
Maguiña added that he hopes to allow the successful team to join President Ramaphosa and his delegation in Moscow on Saturday.
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