GOVERNANCE Activist Rueben Lifuka says it is unacceptable for the name of Zambia and its people to be dragged through the mud with the unfortunate association to possible illegal arms trading.

Lifuka was commenting on a story that the European Union Naval Force Mediterranean Operation IRINI intercepted a vessel at sea, carrying the Zambian flag for being suspected of ferrying illegal arms, which is in violation of the Arms Embargo on Libya.

In an interview, Lifuka wondered what business Russians had on a Zambian registered vessel.

“The story carried in the News Diggers which reports on the interception of a purportedly Zambian registered vessel at sea, raises a number of questions which require comprehensive responses from the authorities. As a matter of principle, it is unacceptable for the good name of Zambia and its people, to be dragged through the mud with the unfortunate association to possible illegal arms trading. It is perplexing that a vessel carrying the Zambian flag is under the command of Russians and its port of origin is in Agadir -Morocco and heading to Libya. The question is who and when was this vessel registered in Zambia? And what business are these Russians doing on a Zambian registered vessel?” Lifuka questioned.

“This issue should not be trivialised and needs serious answers from the Maritime Authority in Zambia responsible for registration of such vessels. Zambia has an obligation to fully comply with all International Shipping practices as well as various International Maritime Organisation conventions.”

He said the government owed the citizens an explanation on the relations with Belarusian businessman and alleged arms dealer Aleksandr Zingman.

“This linkage with Russians and other foreigners comes at a time when the country has never been appraised on the nature of business that a Mr Alexander Zingman and colleagues were pursuing with this country. The Zingman story was reported in 2020 and to date there has been no explanation given. The PF Government owes the Zambians an explanation and our country should not be mortgaged for selfish reasons by anyone. The greater good of the people should be protected and not the interests of unscrupulous individuals,” said Lifuka.

According to correspondence seen by News Diggers, the EU Naval Force Deputy Operation Commander, Rear admiral Jean-Michel Martinet, has demanded that the Zambian government explain the nationalities of the people operating the vessel and to also grant authority for a search to be conducted.

And in response to the demand, the Zambian government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained that the vessel was being operated by 11 Russian nationals, led by a man identified as Andrei Buchek.