The leaders of four African nations arrived in Kiev on Friday, their visit briefly disrupted by a Russian missile attack, and had planned to travel to Russia on Saturday in an unusual push to broker peace between nations that have been at war for more than a year.
The diplomatic mission, which includes the leaders of South Africa, Zambia, Comoros and Senegal, as well as representatives of three others, aroused curiosity and suspicion. Many African countries have been at odds with the United States and its allies — who have sought to isolate Moscow with economic sanctions — since the all-out invasion of Ukraine, with many refusing to condemn Russia’s actions. Russia has worked hard to consolidate its alliances on the continent since the war began.
While some analysts have questioned whether this mission can realistically come to fruition, its proponents point out that among supporters of the various peace initiatives, the African delegation will be the first to meet the leaders of both Russia and Ukraine.
The leaders, who traveled by train from Poland, will meet President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev before heading to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg. Footage of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa arriving at the train station in Kiev and being greeted by Ukrainian officials has been shared On the president’s official Twitter account on Friday morning.
In a video released while the air raid alert was still active in the capital, Vincent Magwenya, a spokesperson for the South African President’s Office, said Mr Ramaphosa had “arrived here safely”.
The South African president visited the Kiev suburb of Buka, where The New York Times and others documented Russian atrocities after the invasion of Moscow, and was waiting to start talks with Mr. Zelensky.
The risks of war are particularly high for Africa, which has seen critical supply chains, especially for agricultural products, disrupted by the fighting.
“As you all know, Africa has been deeply affected by this conflict in terms of food insecurity, grain prices, fertilizer prices, but also, this mission is looking for a path to peace that will raise the level of suffering that people have experienced in Ukraine,” said Mr. Magwenya. .
The peace initiative was announced last month by Mr. Ramaphosa, just days after the US ambassador to South Africa accused the country of supplying arms to Russia for war. South African officials denied the allegation.
More than a dozen African countries abstained from voting at the United Nations to condemn Russia or call for its withdrawal from Ukraine, with a handful voting in support of Russia.
South Africa and other countries on the continent have firmly maintained that it is best to take a neutral stance on the war, saying they can better serve the situation by trying to broker peace.
The leaders of the Republic of the Congo, Egypt and Uganda had also planned to travel to Ukraine but would send representatives instead, a spokesperson for the South African president told News24, a South African news outlet, although there was no explanation for why.
The delegation was organized in part by Jean-Yves Olivier, a wealthy French businessman with a long history of involvement in peace negotiations for countries across Africa.
Mr. Olivier told several news organizations that the delegation came from conversations he had with heads of state in several African countries with whom he was close. He said the first business deal in talks with Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Putin would be to discuss possible prisoner swaps and to promote agreements that would allow the export of fertilizers from Russia.
in Article in NewsweekHe said the mission could achieve progress “by starting a dialogue on topics of interest to both countries and that would not directly affect, initially, the military situation on the ground.”
“And there will be a heap of dialogues,” he added. “And from this dialogue, we believe that this can lead to other issues and at least open prospects for a settlement.”
Megan Spaceia Contributed reporting from Lviv, Ukraine.
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