African leaders head to Russia in latest bid to end war in Ukraine

(Bloomberg) – A delegation of African heads of state is expected to arrive in Russia soon for talks with President Vladimir Putin, the latest in a series of mediation efforts aimed at ending the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

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The presidents of South Africa, Egypt, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia and the Republic of Congo are participating in the peace initiative. They also plan to travel to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Details of their proposals to end the fighting have not been made public.

The African delegation will travel to Kyiv on June 16 and meet Putin in St. Petersburg the next day, the Tass news service reported on Wednesday, citing Yuri Ushakov, the Russian leader’s aide. Putin told reporters on Tuesday that the leaders would discuss “current issues”.

African leaders will face an uphill battle to convince warring parties to lay down their arms, with Zelenskiy having already rejected any deal involving Ukraine ceding all territory to Russia and Putin unlikely to agree to terms for a withdrawal troops.

Read more: Six African nations propose ‘peace mission’ for Ukraine

Details of the trip have been kept under wraps due to security concerns surrounding the mission, which was announced by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last month. France and China are carrying out separate interventions to try to end the fighting.

UN resolutions

Just over half of Africa’s 55 nations voted in favor of UN resolutions condemning the invasion of Ukraine, while most of the rest abstained. The continent has been hit hard by the conflict, which has disrupted grain and fertilizer trade and driven up prices.

The war has placed South Africa in a particularly odious position. He is due to host a meeting of BRICS heads of state in August, but he is a member of the International Criminal Court and would be required to execute an arrest warrant the court issued against Putin if he attends. Pretoria is now considering moving the rally to China, which is not an ICC member.

Read more: How the BRICS became a real club and why others want to participate: QuickTake

As South Africa insists it has taken a non-aligned stance on the conflict, US Ambassador Reuben Brigety last month accused Pretoria of supplying arms to Russia, an allegation she denies . Fears that the altercation could sour South Africa’s relationship with its second largest trading partner drove the rand to a record high against the dollar last month.

In a June 9 letter published by The New York Times on Tuesday, US lawmakers criticized Pretoria’s close ties to Russia and called on the Biden administration to reconsider its intention to host the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Forum in South Africa in November. AGOA provides a number of African countries with duty-free access to US markets and the four members of Congress have said South Africa’s actions call into question its eligibility to benefit.

No decision has been made to move the forum and Pretoria continues to enjoy support from the US government, Clayson Monyela, spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations, said on Twitter.

Vincent Magwenya, spokesman for Ramaphosa, denied on Monday that South Africa could be censured over its relations with Russia.

“It is difficult to sustain speculation about the sanctions, which we find reckless and undermining ongoing efforts to rebuild our economy, which is strained and under pressure,” he told reporters in the capital Pretoria. .

Read more: Rand at record high on fears Russian line could hit trade ties with US

–With assistance from Andrey Lemeshko.

(Updates with report on timing of talks in sixth paragraph.)

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