KAMPALA:  Russian authorities in Kampala have defended the awarding of the US $4 billion refinery deal to RT Global Resources a consortium, led by Russia’s Rostec, saying Uganda has a right to “cooperate with all partners who are ready to come here and invest.”

The Russian ambassador to Uganda, Sergey Shishkin told Turkish news Anadolu Agency, on Monday that: “Ugandans are wise people; if this deal benefits them, all the best.”

He was reacting to a recent threat by the US. Envoy to Uganda, Scott DeLisi, who said whilst government had given the refinery deal to RT, it was not yet a done deal.

Amb. DeLisi warned that: “It is not my job to tell the government of Uganda with whom they can engage but it is my job to share with the government the US policy, its concerns if there any and to define the nature of our partnership. So that is what we focus on, but I wish them well even in other dealings but we will see how that all plays out.”

RT, is a subsidiary of the Russian state conglomerate-Rostec-with a weighty foot print in arms dealing and whose chief executive Sergei Chemezov, is under heavy US and EU sanctions.

The government in 2013 started the search process for a lead investor to undertake construction of the 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery and about 75 companies expressed interest by picking the Request for Qualification document.  Only eight made it to the last submission round but four companies pulled out citing various reasons.

The four that reached the last round included, RT Global Resources, Japan’s Maruben Corporation, China’s Petroleum Pipeline Bureau (CPPB), and the South Korean SK Group. The Chinese company reportedly was kicked out, according to insiders, for links to the former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, and the race remained between the South Korean and RT.

Mr Chemezov, Rostec’s chief executive, is a former officer in the Russian spy agency-KGB- and close ally of President Vladimir Putin. He has US sanctions on him—freezing assets and barring US companies from dealing with him — since 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation and military adventures in Ukraine.

The Russian envoy, added that, Russia would never advise Uganda on which partner they should work with.  “We will never say, ‘Do not cooperate with these people’ – it’s not Russia’s style,” he was quoted.

Can Uganda stay clear of the US-Russia customary sabre rattling?

Discussions between RT and government on the Shs12 trillion venture are still ongoing but officials at the Ministry of Energy, the Permanent Secretary, Kabagambe Kalisa, said earlier that the deal between RT and Uganda is not yet final and that if it became problematic-at most worsened by the sanctions-they could go back to the drawing table to renegotiate with South Koreas SK.

President Museveni has in the recent past scolded Western countries for what he called arrogance, and said China and Russia were available as alternatives because they do not meddle in internal politics of other countries.

In 2011 President Museveni directed the fishing of $744 million out of the government coffers to buy for him eight fighter jets and other military hardware from Russia, kick starting a now years running romance.