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African Peace Delegation Meets Zelenskyy


(L-R) Egypt's Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, Senegal's President Macky Sall, Comoros President Azali Assoumani, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa and Zambia's President Hakainde Hichilema. Kyiv on June 16, 2023.

KYIV — Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday he had invited African leaders to take part in a global peace summit and rejected the idea of peace talks with Moscow now, which he said would simply freeze the war in Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference with the visiting African leaders, Zelenskyy said Ukraine needed a real peace with the withdrawal of Russian troops from occupied territory.

His comments signaled no change in Kyiv's long-held stance on peace talks, despite the African delegation's hopes of mediating an end to the war that has raged since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022.

"To allow any negotiations with Russia now while the occupier is on our land is to freeze the war, to freeze everything: pain and suffering," Zelenskyy stated.

"We need real peace, and therefore, a real withdrawal of Russian troops from our entire independent land," he added.

Zelenskyy made clear Ukraine stood by its own peace initiative, based on a complete Russian withdrawal, but invited the African leaders to take part in an international peace summit that is being drawn up.

The African delegation, including leaders of Senegal, Egypt, Zambia, South Africa and the Comoros, met Zelenskyy after being greeted in Kyiv by a volley of Russian missiles.

The African leaders began their trip by visiting the town of Bucha, outside Kyiv. Ukraine says Russian occupiers carried out executions, rapes and torture in Bucha, and international investigators are collecting evidence of war crimes. Russia denies the allegations.

African Leaders Visit Ukraine's Bucha
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The delegation, which includes South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Senegalese President Macky Sall, are due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on Saturday.

With Kyiv and Moscow courting the Global South, the African leaders see a chance to mediate in a war that has hit African countries by disrupting grain and other food supplies and aggravating price inflation.

Ramaphosa said African countries were prepared to participate further in a peace pact in Ukraine, and called for the free flow of grain. Ukraine is a major global producer and exporter in peacetime.

The leaders are seeking agreement on a series of "confidence building measures," but Kyiv has said its own peace initiative must be the basis of any settlement and has launched a counter-offensive to push back Russian occupying forces.

Proposed measures include a pullback of Russian troops, removal of Russian tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, suspension of implementation of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant targeting Putin, and relief from the Western sanctions imposed on Russia, the delegation indicated.

The Kremlin, which invaded Ukraine in February 2022, has played down the chances of meaningful peace talks with Kyiv. It says conditions for a peace process are not in place, but that it is ready to listen and is open to outside initiatives.