Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected the initiative of African leaders seeking to mediate in the Russia-Ukraine war with a list of reasons why he believed many of their proposals were misguided. It undermined the plan already dismissed by Ukraine.
The African leaders were seeking agreement on a series of “confidence-building measures”, even as Ukraine began a counteroffensive to push back Russian invading forces from the areas of southern and eastern Ukraine that they captured.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said after meeting African leaders in Kyiv that peace talks need Moscow to withdraw its troops from occupied Ukrainian territory, something Moscow has said is not negotiable.
Putin held talks with African delegations but failed to agree on internationally recognised borders
Putin held talks with representatives of Senegal, Egypt, Zambia, Uganda, Congo Republic, Comoros and South Africa in a palace near St Petersburg.
But after presentations from the Comoran, Senegalese and South African presidents, he stepped in to challenge the assumptions of the plan – predicated on acceptance of internationally recognised borders, as he, it seems, does not recognise Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders.
Putin reiterated his position that Ukraine and its Western allies had provoked the conflict before Russia started a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, despite these claims’ lack of evidence.
Putin’s spokesman Peskov said the Russian president had shown interest in the plan, whose 10 points South African President Cyril Ramaphosa laid out in his presentation, and Russia would continue dialogue with the African states.
Zelenskyy’s reaction to the African peace plan
On 16 June, Zelenskyy said that any talks could only be debated after Russia withdraws its troops from the entire territory of Ukraine. Otherwise, allowing talks means freezing the war, while Ukraine needs a just and real peace.
“Let me emphasise once again: we need real peace, which means the withdrawal of Russian troops from all of our independent land,” the President of Ukraine stated.
Zelenskyy also remarked that freezing the war is impossible, as it means extending the suffering and pain of the Ukrainian people.
What ideas were voiced by the President of South Africa?
The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has spoken about “diplomatic ways” to stop the war, despite Russia’s not showing any interest in leaving Ukrainian territories captured during the ongoing war. Mr Ramaphosa still believes that it is possible to negotiate with an imperialistic state which is trying to destroy your country at that moment.
“The main component that we have brought here is that this war must be resolved. There must be peace through negotiations through diplomatic means”.Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president
In addition, Ramaphosa spoke about the need to de-escalate the conflict “on both sides”. Then the politician stressed the need to respect the sovereignty of states and peoples under the UN Charter. Something that Russia fails to do.
Components of the African peace plan
- security guarantees for all countries;
- both countries must ensure the export of grain and fertilizers;
- humanitarian issues;
- exchange of prisoners;
- post-war reconstruction and assistance to people affected by the war;
- the way forward and cooperation with African countries.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed his opinion on the “peace plan”. The Secretary-General stressed that everyone wants the Ukrainian-Russian war to end as soon as possible. However, a peaceful settlement must be fair.
“Only Ukraine can determine the conditions that are acceptable to it”.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Stoltenberg also explained that the more Ukraine de-occupies its territories, the better position it will have at the negotiating table to achieve a just and lasting peace.
Russia launched missile attack on Kyiv during African delegation’s visit
A delegation of African leaders visited Kyiv on 16 June. In the morning of that day, an air raid alert was sounded nationwide. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that the Russians had attacked the country with Kalibr cruise missiles and Kinzhal air-to-ground missiles. Air defence forces were able to shoot down all the Russian missiles.
So far, only powerful Western weapons were efficient for Ukraine in repelling Russian invasion, while all talks and attempts to negotiate via a mediation gave no results.
There was no immediate reaction to the bilateral talks that Ramaphosa, host of a summit in August featuring Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, had with Putin. Since the International Criminal Court indicted Putin in March on war crimes charges South Africa, as a member of the court, finds itself in the awkward position of being obliged to arrest a Russian dictator if he lands on its territory.