Ukraine/Russia war: Russian Foreign Minister seeks allies with Africa trip

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has begun a tour of African countries in Egypt, as he seeks to rally support amid anger over the Ukraine war.

He blamed the West for encouraging Ukraine to fight Russia “to the bitter end”.

Mr Lavrov held talks in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry.

Egypt has significant ties with Russia, which supplies wheat, weapons and – until the invasion of Ukraine began – large numbers of tourists.

After his talks with Mr Shoukry, Mr Lavrov told a joint news conference that the West was prolonging the conflict even though it understood “what and whose end it will be”.

“We are in no way prejudiced against resuming negotiations on a wider range of issues, but this does not depend on us, because the Ukrainian authorities – starting from the president and down to his numerous, countless advisers – repeatedly say that there will be no talks until Ukraine defeats Russia on the battlefield,” he said.

“In this, the Ukrainians are being actively encouraged by their Western handlers, be it London, Washington, Berlin or any other European Union and Nato capital. So the choice is theirs.”

It is the first stage for Mr Lavrov of a brief tour of Africa taking in Ethiopia, Uganda and Congo-Brazzaville.

In an article published by local newspapers in the run-up to his tour, Mr Lavrov said his country had always “sincerely supported Africans in their struggle for freedom from the colonial yoke”.

He added that Russia appreciated Africans’ “balanced position” on the issue of Ukraine.

Many African nations are badly affected by grain shortages caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Ukraine and Russia usually supply more than 40% of Africa’s wheat, the African Development Bank says.

Egypt is normally a big consumer of Ukrainian wheat. In 2019, it imported 3.62 million tonnes of it, more than any country.

But in his article, Mr Lavrov rejected the accusation that Russia was “exporting famine” and blamed it on Western propaganda.

He added that Western sanctions imposed on Russia had exacerbated “negative tendencies” in the international food market that stemmed from the coronavirus pandemic. -BBC

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