Putin Highlights Flaws in African Proposals
During the initiation of mediation talks held at the Konstantinovsky Palace on Saturday, President Vladimir Putin provided a detailed rebuttal to various propositions from African leaders, concerning the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Leaders from countries including Senegal, Egypt, Zambia, Uganda, Congo Republic, Comoros, and South Africa had gathered to mediate in the conflict, but were interrupted by Putin as he challenged their assertions.
A Reiteration of Russia's Stance
Reaffirming Russia's position, Putin maintained that the conflict was instigated by Ukraine and the West, well before the entry of Russian forces across the Ukrainian border in February of the previous year. He asserted that the West, not Russia, should be held accountable for the sudden surge in global food prices that occurred early last year.
Unpacking the Ukrainian Grain Issue
Putin further elaborated on the issue of Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea ports. These exports, sanctioned by Russia over the past year, had not alleviated Africa's high food price issues, since they were primarily supplied to wealthy nations, according to Putin. He also declared that Russia has consistently been open to dialogues with Ukraine, which Kyiv has repeatedly declined.
Addressing the Concerns of Ukrainian Children
Addressing the proposal of repatriating Ukrainian children caught in the conflict zone, Putin stated that Russia is not obstructing their return. "We took them out of a conflict zone, saving their lives," he remarked.
African Confidence Building Measures in Question
The African leaders had been seeking to agree on a range of "confidence-building measures" as Ukraine began a counteroffensive to reclaim Russian-occupied territories. The South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, detailed a 10-point initiative, urging Putin to enter negotiations with Ukraine to end the ongoing crisis.
Response from Ukraine's President
Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, previously stated that peace talks would only be possible after the withdrawal of Russian forces from occupied Ukrainian territory. He expressed confusion over the potential outcomes of the delegation meeting with Putin.
Russia's Settlement Conditions
Putin expressed Russia's openness to constructive dialogue based on the principles of fairness and recognition of the parties' legitimate interests. However, Russia insists on acknowledging the "new realities," referring to its declared annexation of five Ukrainian provinces, only four of which it partially controls.