A superyacht owned by a sanctioned Russian oligarch will be allowed to dock in South Africa.
The country has “no legal obligation” to abide by sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, a spokesman for Cyril Ramaphosa, the president, said.
Nord, a luxury 465ft yacht worth more than $500m, is owned by Alexey Mordashov, a billionaire ally of Vladimir Putin, and will be allowed to dock in Cape Town.
The case exemplifies the limits of sanctions imposed by the US and the EU in response to Mr Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Mordashov was one of several oligarchs targeted with sanctions by the US and EU, but not the United Nations, after the invasion of Ukraine in February for their ties to Mr Putin.
Vincent Magwenya, Mr Ramaphosa’s spokesman, said South Africa’s obligations on sanctions “relate to only those specifically adopted by the United Nations” – of which it is a founding member.
The yacht, which has six decks and a helipad, left Hong Kong last Thursday and is en route to Cape Town, according to MarineTraffic, a maritime tracker.
The decision has been criticised by South African opposition leaders, including the mayor of Cape Town, who urged the government to block Nord’s entry.
Geordin Hill-Lewis, a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, tweeted: “There is no place in our city for accomplices to, and enablers of, Putin’s war.”
Mordashov had an estimated net worth of $29.1bn before sanctions hit, according to Forbes, which made him the richest man in Russia.
The yacht docked in Hong Kong after a seven-day voyage from Vladivostok, in the Russian Far East near the border with China, down through the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea.
Before its arrival, John Lee, the Beijing-backed leader of Hong Kong, said the authorities would not act on unilateral sanctions imposed on Mordashov by individual jurisdictions.
“We cannot do anything that has no legal basis,” said Mr Lee, who himself has been sanctioned by the US for his role in a crackdown on local freedoms.
China, a traditional ally of Russia, has opposed economic sanctions against Russia and refused to condemn Mr Putin’s invasion, though last month at the UN General Assembly it called for a negotiated end to the war.
Mordashov built his wealth around the Russian steel producer Severstal.
Multiple Russian-owned superyachts have been seized since the start of the war in Ukraine.
In recent months, a number have been moved to parts of the world considered beyond the reach of Western sanctions, including Turkey, parts of Asia and the Caribbean.