A high-level African delegation was prepared to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday after Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky rejected its requests for talks between Moscow and Kyiv on Friday.
The diplomatic delegation had travelled to Kyiv on Friday to express its worries about a continent that had been negatively impacted by Russia’s invasion, particularly the growing price of grains. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had emphasised that “peace should be achieved through negotiations.”
At a joint press conference with the delegates, Zelensky, however, ruled out that prospect, telling reporters: “I clearly said several times at our meeting that to allow any negotiations with Russia now that the occupier is on our land is to freeze the war, to freeze pain and suffering.”
Soon after the arrival of the African leaders, air raid sirens sounded throughout the nation due to the detection of Russian missiles, compelling the delegates to seek refuge in the capital.
The attack on Kyiv during the delegation’s visit, according to Zelensky, demonstrated that Putin either lacked control over his forces or was “irrational.”
Ramaphosa, meanwhile, saw the onslaught as proof that the fighting needed to end on all sides.
Ramaphosa referred to the incident as “exactly that type of event that we saw today… that makes us call for de-escalation,” citing Nelson Mandela multiple times in his remarks on the importance of peace.
Zelensky urged the leaders to share their ideas on how to stop the “crimes committed by Russia” and advance food security, according to a statement he released.
But first, he continued, “We must stop this brutal Russian aggression and restore the full force of the UN Charter in order to free our land.”
First, the African team travelled to Bucha, a village outside of Moscow that has come to be associated with alleged war crimes committed by Moscow.
There are four presidents in the group: Ramaphosa, Macky Sall of Senegal, Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, and Azali Assoumani of Comoros, who is also the president of the African Union at the moment.
At the last minute, the leaders of Uganda, Egypt, and Congo-Brazzaville cancelled their trips but sent representatives in their place.
The meeting took place as Ukraine reported victories in a fresh counteroffensive, but on Friday, Putin asserted that Kyiv’s soldiers “stand no chance” in the areas where combat has gotten more intense.
The Ukrainian Air Force claimed to have destroyed 12 missiles, including six hypersonic ones, following the strike on Kyiv on Friday.
No recorded damage was done to the city itself, but seven people, including two children, were injured, according to the local police.
With what transpired today, Peter Stano, a spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, said, “It’s very obvious also to the African leaders how sincere Putin is about stopping the conflict.”
The strike was quickly brought to the attention of Ukrainian officials.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that “Russian missiles are a message to Africa: Russia wants more war, not peace.”
On Saturday, the African leaders were scheduled to meet with Putin in Saint Petersburg, in the northwest of Russia.
We believe it is crucial to pay close attention to what both nations have to say, and tomorrow we will now listen to President Putin, according to Ramaphosa.
Putin showed little interest in peace talks when he announced the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus and referred to Zelensky as a “disgrace to the Jewish people” on Friday at an annual economic event in Saint Petersburg.
Putin stated on Friday that the “first nuclear warheads were delivered to the territory of Belarus,” following Russia’s initial announcement of plans to post tactical nuclear weapons in its neighbour and ally in March.
He claimed that the weapons were intended to serve as a deterrent to “those who are thinking of inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia”.
In addition, Putin informed the audience at the event that he had “a lot of Jewish friends” who had informed him “that Zelensky is not Jewish, that he is a disgrace to the Jewish people”.
Despite Zelensky’s Jewish origin, Moscow has used the need to “de-Nazify” Ukraine as justification for going to war.
Ahead of a conference between Russia and Africa next month, analysts claimed the delegation’s mediation efforts might succeed in securing some concessions from the Kremlin.
Rising grain and fertiliser costs, as well as the wider effects on world trade since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, have had a significant negative impact on the African continent.
According to Ramaphosa, this conflict is seriously affecting the livelihoods of 1.2 or 1.3 billion people on the African continent.