A delegation of African leaders and senior officials seeking ways to usher dialogue between the belligerents of the war in Ukraine and ultimately peace arrived Friday (June 16) in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
The delegation including the presidents of South Africa, Senegal, Zambia and the Comoros Islands first went to Bucha, a Kyiv suburb where bodies of civilians lay scattered in the streets last year after Russian troops abandoned a campaign to seize the capital and withdrew from the area.
On Friday South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was met by a Ukrainian special envoy and South Africa’s ambassador at Nemishaeve Railway Station in Kyiv. South Africa has been under intense scrutiny due to the country’s neutral stance on the conflict.
This follows allegations that arms and ammunition were shipped from South Africa to Russia, but the government has denied these allegations.
And there are eyes on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will be coming to South Africa for the BRICS meeting in August and whether an ICC warrant of arrest will be honoured.
The African delegation also includes senior officials from Egypt and the Republic of the Congo.
The delegation was set to travel to St. Petersburg later Friday, where Russia’s top international economic conference is taking place, and meet with Putin on Saturday (June 17).
‘We must protect lives’
Officials who helped lay the groundwork for the delegation’s talks said the African leaders not only aimed to initiate a peace process but also to assess how Russia, which is under heavy international sanctions, can be paid for fertilizer exports that Africa desperately needs.
They are also set to discuss the related issue of ensuring more grain shipments out of Ukraine amid the war and the possibility of more prisoner swaps.
“Life is universal, and we must protect lives – Ukrainian lives, Russian lives, global lives,” Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema told The Associated Press. “Instability anywhere is instability everywhere.”
The African peace overture comes as Ukraine launches a counteroffensive to dislodge the Kremlin’s forces from occupied areas, using Western-supplied advanced weapons in attacks along the 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line.
Floodwaters in the Kherson region have continued to recede, with the average level in flood-hit areas standing at 1.67 meters (about 5 feet). That is down from 5 meters (16 feet) immediately following the breach of the Kakhovka dam last Tuesday, according to the Ukrainian presidential office.