During a visit to Zimbabwe last week, Valentina Ivanovna Matvienko, chairperson of the Federation Council of Russia, said Moscow would improve trade relations between the two countries as the West shuns them.
Analysts say Zimbabwe is looking to Russia for fuel, cooking oil and wheat it used to get from Ukraine, while Russia has its eyes on Zimbabwe's minerals.
Alexander Rusero, who heads international relations studies at Africa University in Zimbabwe, says the nation's ties with Russia are both ideological and historical.
“Given the realities that Zimbabwe is perceived as a pariah state, it is perceived as an outpost of tyranny by the Western international community, by the United States which is currently in an antagonistic relation with Russia," Rusero said, adding "so Zimbabwe historically and ideologically will be leaned more to Russia and China than the Western international community.”
The relationship between Russia and Zimbabwe, Rusero said, goes back to when Russians supplied arms to the now-ruling ZANU-PF party as it fought for Zimbabwe’s independence in the late 1970s.
Russia later vetoed proposed U.N. sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2008, when former President Robert Mugabe won a contested re-election.
Harare-based independent political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya says Russia has an interest in Zimbabwe’s minerals, such as gold and platinum.
“It is not realistic to expect any drastic change of any policy between Zimbabwe and Russia on the basis of the Ukraine war. It is important to condemn invasions of any country, but unfortunately international politics also works in terms of self-interests and self-preservation,” said Ngwenya.
Zimbabwe depends on Russia and Ukraine for about 65% of its imported wheat. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the price of bread and flour in the country has increased drastically as exports from the war zone have dried up.
“We have been affected. We are working with the government to bring in more wheat. We need as soon as possible. The commodity prices are going up, some of our wheat products such as bread are going up,” said Tafadzwa Musarara, chairman of Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, which is in charge of importing grain.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he considered Africa “friendly” and would make efforts to ensure goods in shortage reach the continent.