South Africa has allowed a superyacht linked to sanctioned Russian tycoon Alexey Mordashov to dock in its territory.
“South Africa has no legal obligation to abide by sanctions imposed by the US and EU,” president Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya told reporters in a statement on Tuesday.
“We have no reason to prevent their entry into South Africa,” Mr Magwenya added.
“South Africa’s obligations with respect to sanctions relate only to those that are specifically adopted by the United Nations. Currently, there are no UN-imposed sanctions on the particular individual.”
The movement of the $521m (£472m) superyacht, named Nord, to South Africa from Hong Kong on Thursday came almost two weeks after the US accused Hong Kong of operating as a safe haven for sanctioned individuals.
Hong Kong had allowed the vessel to stay in its waters and said it would not sieze the superyacht.
The South African government official’s statement comes even as the opposition, including Cape Town mayor and member of the main opposition Democratic Alliance Geordin Hill-Lewis, had called for the sanctioned businessman’s vessel to be denied entry.
“There is no place in our city for accomplices to, and enablers of, Putin’s war,” Mr Hill-Lewis said in a tweet.
The demand was rejected by the government which had earlier in March abstained from a UN vote condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Mordashov is is one of many Russian oligarchs sanctioned by western countries, including the US, UK and the European Union, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
He has tried to challenge the sanctions against him in European courts, and has also distanced himself from Putin while criticising the war in Ukraine.
“What is happening in Ukraine is a tragedy for two fraternal nations,” he said in a statement issued through a spokesperson. “It is terrible that Ukrainians and Russians are dying, people are suffering hardships and the economy is collapsing. I sincerely hope a way can be found in the very near future to resolve this conflict and stop the bloodshed.
“I have never been close to politics and have always focused on building economic value at the companies I have worked for both in Russia and abroad, creating jobs and supporting local communities. I have absolutely nothing to do with the emergence of the current geopolitical tension and I do not understand why the sanctions were imposed on me.
For a very long time, I have been engaged in the development of economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation with many western countries and I fail to understand how these sanctions against me will contribute to the settlement of the dreadful conflict in Ukraine.”
Last week, the business tycoon’s vessel left Hong Kong for South Africa.
The US had hit out at Hong Kong after the vessel had docked in the city.
But Hong Kong leader John Lee had said, while the city complies with UN sanctions, authorities “cannot do anything that has no legal basis” when it comes to sanctions unilaterally imposed by other jurisdictions.