Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Saint Petersburg Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Saint Petersburg 

South Africa calls for an end to Ukraine war

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for an end to the war in Ukraine as it impacts millions, including people on the African continent. He made the remarks while meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg.

By Stefan J. Bos  

South Africa's President Ramaphosa met with his Russian counterpart  Putin as part of a self-declared African peace mission to help end the war in Ukraine.

Ramaphosa was accompanied by six other African leaders — the presidents of Comoros, Senegal, and Zambia, as well as Egypt's prime minister and top envoys from the Republic of Congo and Uganda.

Their mission to Ukraine, the first of its kind by African leaders, comes after other peace initiatives — such as one by China.

It carries particular importance for Africa as it relies on food and fertilizer deliveries from Russia and Ukraine.

However, the war has impeded exports from the world's most important breadbasket.

Speaking in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, South African President Ramaphosa urged Putin to end Europe's worst armed conflict since World War Two. "This war must be settled... through negotiations and through diplomatic means," said Ramaphosa.

He added that his delegation, consisting of seven African leaders, "are here to communicate a very clear message that we would like this war to be ended. We say so because this war is having a negative impact on the African continent and indeed on many other countries around the world," Ramaphosa explained ahead of formal talks with the Russian president.

Continent Suffers

"As a continent, we are being negatively affected in terms of our economies," he noted. The African leaders have proposed de-escalation of the armed conflict followed by peace negotiations.

Russian President Putin told his South African counterpart he is not giving up on negotiations with Ukraine. "We welcome our African friends' balanced stance on the Ukraine crisis," Putin said. He added: "Dear friends, we appreciate your interest in resolving the conflict. We immediately responded positively to your proposal to discuss the Ukrainian issue."

African leaders are divided over whether Russia should be condemned for invading Ukraine.

And the United States has expressed doubts over South Africa's neutrality, saying it secretly provided weapons and ammunition to Russia in December. South Africa's president has said he is investigating the allegations.

Before they arrived in Russia, the African leaders visited Ukraine, where they met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky,

He urged the African leaders to help enable Russia's freeing of political prisoners, including from Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. "Please ask them to release the political prisoners they have been holding since 2014. These are our Crimean people and many, many other people," Zelensky added.

Road map

"Would you please ask Russia to free the political prisoners? It seeks to me this will be an important result of the mission of your road map," the Ukrainian leader told the African delegates.  

However, Zelensky has stressed peace talks are only possible between Kyiv and Moscow if Russia withdraws from all Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine has launched a counter-offensive with deadly battles raging in several areas.

Zelensky used Father's Day, celebrated in many countries, to thank who he called "strong and brave soldiers" fighting Russia's invasion.

He made clear he hoped these fathers would return safely from the frontlines.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos

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18 June 2023, 16:45