The South African government claims it will allow Russian oligarchs to moor superyachts in Cape Town.
The ship heading from Hong Kong belongs to Alexei Mordashov, an ally of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which is sanctioned by the EU and the US.
The South African government has said it will not be bound by sanctions.
But the mayor of Cape Town has vowed to block the yachts, saying he has a “moral duty” to oppose Russia’s “unjust war”.
Mayor Jordyn Hill-Lewis, a member of the opposition Democratic League, has called on the government to seize the 465-foot (141-meter) yacht.
It is not clear how Cape Town officials are trying to block the arrival of a ship called Nord.
A spokesman for President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “South Africa has no legal obligation to comply with sanctions imposed by the US and the EU.”
“South Africa’s obligations regarding sanctions relate only to those specifically adopted by the United Nations,” said spokesman Vincent Magwenya.
Accusing Jordyn Hill-Lewis of “grandstanding,” he added:
The Hong Kong government recently made a similar justification in refusing to block the entry of a $521 million (roughly £472 million) superyacht, with CEO John Lee , said Hong Kong was responsible for the UN sanctions.
Western powers and their allies have imposed sanctions on more than 1,000 Russian individuals and companies in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Ramaphosa government has so far avoided directly criticizing Russia and has abstained from several UN votes that explicitly condemn the war. I asked.
Like many other African countries, South Africa’s leaders have ties to Russia that date back to its fight against colonial rule.
On Monday, Jordyn Hill-Lewis wrote on Twitter, “There will be no place in our city for those who took part in Putin’s war and made it possible.”
“The actions of our country’s foreign policy in connection with Russia’s illegal and imperialist war are shameful,” he added in a further statement. And it’s an opportunity to stand up for what’s clearly right.”
The luxury yacht is expected to arrive in Cape Town in the coming weeks, but it’s unclear how long it will be allowed to stay.
Before the war, Mordashov was the richest man in Russia. The 57-year-old has amassed a fortune of around $29.1 billion (£25.92 billion) through his steel and mining company Severstal.
Early in the civil war, it was subject to widespread sanctions by the West for its ties to Putin. But the billionaire says he is not involved in Russian politics.
Mordashov has already lost one of his small vessels, the Lady M, to Western sanctions after it was seized by Italian police in March.
However, Nord is considered to be his largest yacht. Forbes magazine has described it as his one of the world’s most luxurious boats.
Shortly after the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine, the yacht, complete with two helicopter landing sites, a swimming pool and a cinema, left the Seychelles for the port of Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East. This move was seen as an attempt to avert Lady M’s fate.
But experts say shipowners like Mordashov face serious problems finding international ports where they can sustain their superyachts. Most are in Europe and the ships are immediately seized.