African Peace Mission Welcomed to War in Ukraine As Russia’s Friendly Bombs Rain Down on Kyiv.

mage: Martial Trezzini/KEYSTONE/dpa/picture alliance. South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa is leading a delegation of African leaders that is going to meet with Ukrainian and Russian leader this week.
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by Editor-June 16th, 2023.

An African peace mission has arrived in Ukraine hoping to mediate in the Russian-Ukrainian war.

The peace delegation, including leaders from South Africa, Senegal, Zambia, the Comoros and Egypt, met defence ministry representatives and plans to have talks on Friday with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

A Reuters film crew subsequently witnessed the arrival of the African leaders in Kyiv and their entry into a hotel, seeking refuge in its bomb shelter during the missile attack on the capital.

“Launches of Kalibr cruise missiles from the Black Sea have been recorded,” the Ukrainian Air Force reported later on Telegram.

They also plan to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg and they hope to be able to mediate in a war that has hit African countries by disrupting grain and other food supplies. (Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest exporters of grain.)

The African leaders, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Senegalese President Macky Sall, began their trip by visiting the town of Bucha, outside Kyiv. Ukraine says Russian occupiers carried out executions, rapes and torture in Bucha, and international investigators are collecting evidence of war crimes. Russia denies the allegations.

But the timing of the visit seems off. It comes just as Kyiv is launching its much-vaunted counter-offensive.

So, what can this mission actually achieve?

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa offered no timeline or proposals when he made the announcement last month, joining a crowded field of would-be peacemakers that includes China, Turkey and the Pope.


“What is the strategic thrust of this intervention?” asks Kingsley Makhubela, a South African risk analyst and former diplomat. “It’s not clear. Is this a photo op by African heads of state?”

The man who has prepared the ground, Jean-Yves Ollivier, has talked about modest goals.

He said the aim was to start talking rather than to resolve the conflict, to begin a dialogue on issues that do not directly affect the military situation and build from there.

One of them is a potential swap of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war.

The other is to try and find solutions to issues that matter to Africa, like grain and fertiliser.

The war has severely restricted the export of grain from Ukraine and fertiliser from Russia, intensifying global food insecurity. Africa, which depends on imports of both, has suffered the most.

Mr Ollivier said the African leaders would seek to persuade the Russians to extend the fragile agreement that allows Ukraine to ship grain through the Black Sea.

And it will urge Kyiv to help find ways to ease restrictions on the export of Russian fertiliser currently being held up in ports.

Sources: Reuters, BBC, Reuters.

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