Ramaphosa to meet Putin and Zelenskiy to discuss Ukraine War

A delegation of African heads of state is expected to arrive in Russia imminently for talks with President Vladimir Putin, the latest in a series of mediation efforts aimed at bringing an end to the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

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 haven’t been made public.

The African delegation will visit Kyiv on June 16 and meet Putin in St. Petersburg the following day, the state-run Tass news service reported Wednesday, citing Yuri Ushakov, the Russian leader’s aide.

Putin told reporters on Tuesday that the leaders would discuss “current issues.”

The African leaders will face an uphill battle to convince the warring sides to lay down their weapons, with Zelenskiy having already rejected any deal that entails Ukraine ceding any territory to Russia and Putin unlikely to agree to conditions for a troop withdrawal.

Details of the trip have been kept under wraps amid security concerns surrounding the mission, which was announced by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last month.

France and China are spearheading separate interventions to try and bring an end to the fighting.

UN Resolutions

Just over half of Africa’s 55 nations voted in favour of United Nations resolutions condemning the invasion of Ukraine, while most of the rest abstained. The continent has been severely affected by the conflict, which has disrupted trade in grain and fertilizer and pushed up prices.

The war has placed South Africa in a particularly invidious position. It’s due to host a meeting of heads of state from the BRICS nations in August.

As a member of the International Criminal Court, it would be obliged to execute an arrest warrant the tribunal has issued for Putin if he attends.

Pretoria is now considering moving the gathering to China, which isn’t an ICC member.

While South Africa insists that it has adopted a non-aligned position toward the conflict, US Ambassador Reuben Brigety last month accused Pretoria of supplying weapons to Russia, an allegation it denies.

Fears that the altercation could sour South Africa’s relations with its second-biggest trading partner drove the rand to a record low against the dollar last month.

In a letter dated June 9 published by the New York Times on Tuesday, US lawmakers criticized Pretoria’s close ties with Russia and called on the Biden administration to reconsider plans to host the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Forum in South Africa in November.

AGOA affords a number of African nations duty-free access to American markets, and the four congressmen said South Africa’s actions called into question its eligibility to benefits.

No decision has been taken to move the forum, and Pretoria continues to enjoy the support of the US government, Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for South Africa’s international relations department, said on Twitter.

Vincent Magwenya, Ramaphosa’s spokesman, on Monday, denied that South Africa may be censured over its relations with Russia.

“It’s difficult to entertain speculation about sanctions, which we find to be reckless and undermining efforts underway to rebuild our economy, which is under strain and pressure,” he told reporters in Pretoria, the capital.


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