By Editor-Sunday, July 30th, 2023.
African leaders are returning home after two days of discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin with nothing to show for their hopes to continue the expiring Ukraine to Africa grain deal, although Putin did not rule out further discussion on the African peace plan, precise details of which are not available.
Some provisions of the African peace initiative on Ukraine are being implemented, such as the exchange of prisoners and humanitarian issues, Putin emphasized–according to Russian news site Sputnik International.
“The initiative itself, like any other peaceful initiative, is good because it seeks a peaceful solution to the conflict. There are things that, after our meeting in Saint Petersburg a month and a half ago, these provisions, so to speak, and the points of this peace initiative are being implemented.
“True, they are being implemented either way, but, nevertheless, there are ten points in total in these initiatives, one of the points is the exchange of prisoners, exchange of detainees, the solution of a family, humanitarian issues related to children and so on,” Putin told journalists.
Putin in a press conference late Saturday following the Russia-Africa summit said Russia’s termination of the existing grain deal earlier this month caused a rise in grain prices that benefits Russian companies.
He added that Moscow intended to share some of those revenues with the “poorest nations.”
That commitment, with no details, follows Putin’s promise to start shipping 25,000 to 50,000 tons of grain for free to each of six African nations in the next three to four months — an amount dwarfed by the 725,000 tons shipped by the U.N. World Food Program to several hungry countries, African and otherwise, under the grain deal.
Russia plans to send the free grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Eritrea and Central African Republic.
Fewer than 20 of Africa’s 54 heads of state or government attended the Russia summit, while 43 attended the previous gathering in 2019, reflecting concerns over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine even as Moscow seeks more allies on the African continent of 1.3 billion people.
Putin praised Africa as a rising center of power in the world, while the Kremlin blamed “outrageous” Western pressure for discouraging some African countries from showing up.
The presidents of Egypt and South Africa were among the most outspoken on the need to resume the grain deal.
Putin also said Russia would continue to look at Africa’s peace proposal for Ukraine, whose full details have not been publicly shared. But the Russian leader asked: “Why do you ask us to cease fire? We can’t cease fire while we’re being attacked.”
On peace talks, both Ukraine and Russia have previously said they will not come to the negotiating table without certain preconditions.
Kyiv says it will not concede any territory but Moscow says Kyiv must accept its country’s “new territorial reality”. Russia invaded its neighbour last year and is occupying territory in the country’s south and east.
Most international experts agree that probably Ukraine needs to give up the Donbas territories in the east of the country where most of the population is ethnically Russian, perhaps after a plebiscite to establish the will of the residents, and that Ukraine should accept that the Crimea has always been Russian territory and should never have been attached to Ukraine.
The next significant step in peace efforts instead appears to be a Ukrainian organized meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia in August to which Russia is not invited.
Africa’s nations make up the largest voting bloc at the United Nations and have been more divided than any other region on General Assembly resolutions criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Delegations at the summit in St. Petersburg roamed exhibits of weapons, a reminder of Russia’s role as the top arms supplier to the African continent.
Putin in his remarks on Saturday also downplayed his absence from the BRICS economic summit in South Africa next month amid a controversery over an international warrant for his arrest. His presence there, Putin said, is not “more important than my presence here, in Russia.”
Sources: AP News, news agencies, BBC, Sputnik International.