President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a new first in the history of Ukrainian-Botswana relations: He spoke with his counterpart, President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

The two leaders spoke about a number of issues, including condemning Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. Zelensky promised the leader of Botswana that Ukraine would “remain a reliable food exporter.”

Last week, Zelensky celebrated another diplomatic first when he had a video call with the president of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embaló. Prior to last week, Ukraine had made virtually no effort to launch a campaign to elicit support from African leaders or among the populations of Africa.

At the time, the Kyiv Post reported that Russian propaganda, spread by agencies such as Russia Today (RT), have often painted the invasion of Ukraine as being a war “against Western imperialism.”

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The trope of “fighting against the imperialism of colonizers” was used in Africa throughout the Soviet period as a means of building support against American efforts on the continent.

In an interview with the Kyiv Post, the world’s foremost expert on Russian disinformation, Ivana Stradner, said, “Russia has been investing in disinformation campaigns in Africa for a long time for both economic and security reasons. The Kremlin has been spreading propaganda through media platforms like RT and Sputnik, as well as through official visits, like (Sergey) Lavrov’s recent tour.”

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In doing so, the Russians seek “to convince people in Africa that Russia is a benevolent, humanitarian great power, and to juxtapose the West as an exploitative villain,” said Stradner who observed that, “Russia has been targeting countries in Africa and the Middle East affected the most by war-related grain shortages, with propaganda blaming the West.”

“With this disinformation, Russia is trying to cover up their complicity in what I am concerned might become a serious food crisis in Africa, which might lead to more social unrest and could potentially cause another refugee crisis in Europe,” commented Stradner.

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When the UN voted on condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: 17 African nations abstained; six countries were absent from the vote; Eritrea was the only country to vote against Ukraine; and the rest of the countries on the continent voted in favor of Ukraine, with the exception of Western Sahara which does not have the status of UN-member state.

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