President Vladimir V. Putin, left, speaks to President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa at the Russia-Africa summit meeting in Sochi, Russia, in 2019.Credit…Pool photo by Sergei Chirikov

The leaders of four African nations arrived on Friday in Kyiv, where their visit was briefly disrupted by a Russian missile attack, and planned to travel to Russia on Saturday in an unusual push to broker peace between the nations locked in a more than yearlong war.

The diplomatic mission, which includes the leaders of South Africa, Zambia, Comoros and Senegal, has drawn both curiosity and skepticism. Many African nations have been at odds with the United States and its allies — who have sought to isolate Moscow with economic sanctions — since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with several refusing to condemn Russia’s actions. Russia has worked hard to cement its alliances on the continent since the war began.

While some analysts have questioned whether this mission could realistically bear fruit, its supporters note that among the proponents of various peace initiatives, the African delegation will be the first to meet with the leaders of both Russia and Ukraine.

The leaders, who traveled by train from Poland, will meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv before heading to Russia to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin in St. Petersburg. Footage of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa arriving at the train station in Kyiv and being greeted by Ukrainian officials was shared on the president’s official Twitter account on Friday morning.

In a video posted while an air raid alert was still active in the capital, Vincent Magwenya, a spokesman for the office of the South African president, said that Mr. Ramaphosa had “arrived here safely.”

The South African president visited the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where The New York Times and others have documented Russian atrocities in the wake of Moscow’s invasion, and was waiting for talks to begin with Mr. Zelensky.

The stakes of the war are particularly high for Africa, which has seen crucial supply chains, particularly for agricultural products, disrupted because of the fighting.

“As you all know Africa has been severely impacted by this conflict in terms of food insecurity, price of grain, price of fertilizer,” Mr. Magwenya said, “But equally, this mission serves to seek a road to peace that will elevate the suffering that has been experiences by the people in Ukraine.”

The peace initiative was announced last month by Mr. Ramaphosa, just days after the United States ambassador to South Africa accused the country of providing arms to Russia for the war. South Africans officials have denied the claim.

More than a dozen African countries have abstained from United Nations votes to condemn Russia or call on 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 was best to take a neutral stance on the war, saying that they could better serve the situation by trying to broker peace.

The leaders of the Republic of Congo, Egypt and Uganda had also planned to travel to Ukraine but will be sending representatives instead, a spokesman for the South African president told News24, a South African news outlet, though there was no explanation for why.

The delegation was organized in part by Jean-Yves Ollivier, a wealthy French businessman with a decades-long history of engaging in peace negotiations for countries across Africa. But Mr. Ollivier has also been viewed with some suspicion for his close ties to the Congolese president, Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Mr. Ollivier told several news organizations that the delegation came about through conversations he had had with heads of state in several African countries with whom he is close. He said that the first order of business in talks with Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Putin would be to discuss potential prisoner swaps and strengthening agreements that allow fertilizer exports from Russia.

In an article in Newsweek, he said the mission could achieve progress “by starting a dialogue on subjects that interest the two countries and will not directly impact, at the beginning, the military situation on the ground.”

“And there will be a stack of dialogues,” he added. “And from this dialogue, we believe that that can lead to other issues and at least to open the prospect for settlement.”

Megan Specia contributed reporting from Lviv, Ukraine.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *