South Africa's president arrived in Saint Petersburg, Russia on Saturday ahead of talks headed by an African delegation pushing for negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow even as doubts grow they will bear fruit. 


The African leaders are attempting to make the continent's issues heard after it has been buffeted by economic headwinds caused by the conflict. 


President Cyril Ramaphosa's arrival in Saint Petersburg "follows constructive discussions with (Ukrainian) President Volodymyr Zelensky," the South African presidency said.


The delegation will "meet (Russian) President Vladimir Putin to seek a road to peace to (end) the 16 months-long conflict (that's) caused devastating economic impact, loss of life and global instability".


The mission includes four presidents: Ramaphosa, Senegal's Macky Sall, Zambia's Hakainde Hichilema and Comoros' Azali Assoumani, who also currently heads the African Union.



The leaders of Uganda, Egypt and Congo-Brazzaville pulled out of the visit at the last moment and sent representatives instead.


Efforts to secure peace appear increasingly perilous, analysts told AFP, with both Kyiv and Moscow convinced they can win on the battlefield.


"There must be de-escalation on both sides," Ramaphosa said in a press conference in Kyiv the day before, calling for "peace through negotiations".


But Zelensky ruled out that possibility during a joint press conference with the delegates. 

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Calls have been mounting to find ways to support Kyiv's war effort by tapping the bank accounts, investments and other assets frozen after Russia invaded its neighbour in 2022.


"I clearly said several times at our meeting that to allow any negotiations with Russia, now that the occupier is on our land, is to freeze... pain and suffering," he said.


- 'Listen carefully' -


"In our view it is important to listen very carefully to what both countries have to say, and tomorrow we are now going to listen to President Putin," Ramaphosa said.

The visit in Kyiv did not get off to a smooth start.


Air raid siren sounded in Kyiv shortly after their arrival, which Zelensky said showed that Putin either did not control his army, or was "irrational".



Ramaphosa took the barrage as evidence that both sides needed to stop fighting.


The delegation also comes as both sides are focussed on battlefield developments, as Kyiv presses its newly-launched counteroffensive.


Putin's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu called for more tanks to be manufactured "to meet the needs of Russian forces" in Ukraine.  


Kyiv on Friday evening reported tactical successes "practically in all areas where our units are fighting in the south." 


The Russian president showed little appetite for talks speaking Friday at the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum.


"I think that Ukraine's armed forces stand no chance (in the south), as well as in other directions... I have no doubt about that," Putin said.


- 'Affecting African countries' -


While conducting a military operation in Ukraine, which Moscow considers within its sphere of influence, Putin has sought to portray Russia as a bulwark against neocolonialism.


In Saint Petersburg, Putin proclaimed the end of "the ugly neo-colonial system", which he often mentions in appeals to African partners.


Russia also accuses the West of blocking its exports of fertilisers and threatens to pull out of a deal -- that expires on July 17 -- that allowed vital Ukrainian grain exports to resume through the Black Sea.



Securing the future viability of a deal allowing grain from Ukraine to reach the global market would be one potential goal of the delegation. 


"This conflict is also affecting African countries negatively, touching on the livelihoods of 1.2 or 1.3 billion people on the African continent," Ramaphosa said in Kyiv.


Analysts told AFP the mediating effort could hope to win some concessions from the Kremlin ahead of a Russia-Africa summit next month.


Prisoner swaps and fertiliser exports will also likely be on the agenda in Moscow, other analysts have suggested.


Zelensky pressed the African leaders on the issue, asking them to "please, let them release our political prisoners. I think this will be an important result of your mission".

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Comments (4)
Joseph Swanson
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It is sad that the global South Nations, especially Africa forget how the russians also hurted their ancestors.In 1889 russia laid claims to the village of Sagallo in present-day Djibouti.
By the beginning of the 20th Century around 25, 000 russian settlers had established themselves in South Africa. Yes, settlers  who stole black land AND displaced black South Africans! The russians were amongst the strongest supporters of the Boer Republics in the Boer War. The largest international solidarity groups raising money, material aid, medical support detachments and fighters for the Boer army were in russia and Holland and these included the royal families. The russians were totally infatuated with the Boers and admired their way of life. russian immigrants joined special detachments of russian fighters to aid the Boer War effort.
I support
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More peace plans to suit Russia. Everyone has a peace plan these days Dime a dozen it's seems until Russia leaves,there will be no peace .
Joseph Swanson
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No one should be surprised that the usual suspect nations that are communist like china and south africa and others that support communism, will always support communist russia and go against Ukraine.
William Spillman
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Perhaps the African 'leaders' should sort out Africa's problems before preaching to others. The South African government after the great Mandela has been corrupt and ineffective. The chaos and civil strife in Congo have continued for more years than I can remember. War is raging everywhere. Islamic militants are everywhere. People in Somalia are dying of hunger and drought. Sound like a wonderful continent whose 'leaders' ought to be praised and listened to for their wisdom. Right. I predict that they will continue to cozy up to Russia and China and things will get much worse for them and for the innocent people they claim to lead.