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Ukraine Vows to Deepen Africa Ties

FILE — Ukrainian diplomat Dymtro Kuleba, speaks to reporters after a U.N. Security Council meeting focused on the war with Russia, Sept, 22, 2022.

Ukrainian officials vow to invest significant political capital to deepen ties with Africa in a bid to counter Russia’s growing influence on the continent.

During an interview conducted Wednesday with French media outlet, Agence France-Presse, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba said Kyiv looks to restart its relations with Africa.

"We are starting from scratch in Africa. This continent needs systematic and long-term work. It’s not something that happens overnight," Kuleba said.

The East European official compared Ukraine’s attempts to bolster ties with Africa to a diplomatic “counteroffensive” against Russian efforts.

The Kremlin has longstanding relations with several African nations that date to the Soviet era, however Moscow recently ramped up efforts to strengthen its ties since the onset of the conflict in Ukraine and international isolation resulting from Western sanctions.

Kuleba said Ukraine’s strategy "is not to replace Russia but to free Africa from Russia’s grip," adding that Kyiv wanted to approach those diplomatic interactions with "respect and with the principle of mutual benefit."

The foreign minister argued that his nation’s diplomatic approach to Africa contrasts Russia, adding that the Kremlin’s most powerful exports to the continent were Wagner mercenaries and "propaganda."

Kuleba also said Russian President Vladimir Putin's publicly voiced concerns about food security in Africa are baseless, given Moscow's exit from the Black Sea grain deal.

He described Ukrainian farmers and Africans dependent on bread availability as the main victims of Moscow's decision to end safe passage for cargo ships to and from Ukraine's ports.

Despite criticism for the decision to withdraw from the Black Sea grain deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin recently addressed African leaders during the two-day Russia-Africa summit where he said Moscow would replace Ukrainian grain exports to the continent on both commercial and aid basis to ensure food security.

"We will be ready to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea with 25-50,000 tons of free grain each in the next 3-4 months," Putin told the summit, whose participants reacted with applause.

"We will also provide free delivery of these products to consumers," he added.

Information for this report was sourced from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.