African leaders show little enthusiasm for Putin’s charm offensive – Peter Fabricius 

President Cyril Ramaphosa and other African leaders have gathered in St. Petersburg for the second Russia-Africa summit.  The previous summit took place in Sochi in 2019. Amid Russia’s deepening isolation from the West due to the invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has increasingly turned to Africa. However, Independent Journalist and Foreign Policy Analyst, Peter Fabricius, told BizNews that only 17 out of the 43 African leaders who attended the 2019 Sochi summit indicated their willingness to participate this time. Fabricius emphasised that Putin’s hosting of the African leaders is an attempt to demonstrate that he is not as isolated as the West perceives him to be following the invasion. African leaders, he said, are hoping to reinstate the export of Ukrainian grain. Fabricius also shared that despite being accredited as a member of the press for the summit, his accreditation was unexpectedly withdrawn at the last minute—a move he suspects may have been initiated by the Russian embassy in Pretoria. – Linda van Tilburg

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:09 – Introductions
  • 00:47 – Peter Fabricius on being withdrawn accreditation to attend the summit
  • 02:29 – If any of the pledges from the last summit materialised
  • 03:08 – On the drop of African attendees
  • 04:01 – On what Putin is trying to get from the summit
  • 04:53 – What the African leaders are hoping to gain
  • 06:06 – On the Russians bumper crop of grain from the Ukraine
  • 07:36 – On if African leaders will mention the influence of the Wagner group in Africa
  • 08:35 – On if the peace initiative that Ramaphosa and some African leaders initiated might be on the table
  • 10:14 – How the West sees this
  • 11:34 – On the human rights violations in Ukraine and if they will be discussed
  • 14:35 – On if Jacob Zuma will attend the summit
  • 15:40 – Any new developments on the BRICS Summit
  • 16:41 – Conclusions

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Excerpts from the interview

Only 17 out of 43 leaders at St Petersburg summit

It would be interesting to see what eventually happens but even their own people said yesterday that they’re only expecting about 17 leaders or something and the last time they had 43. One gathered that Putin was hoping to exceed that. Last time, of course, he wasn’t in a full-blown war with Ukraine. He had already invaded Crimea a few years before but that seemed to be something that everyone was able somehow, apart from the Ukrainians I guess, to sort of digest. But things did change radically last year when he invaded the whole of Ukraine. 

Diplomacy from the West and East to win over African support

[Putin] is basically trying to show that he’s not as isolated as the West would like him to be and believes he is. Africa’s been quite ambivalent. If you want to look at Africa as a continent, when it comes to those votes in the General Assembly condemning Russia’s invasion; slightly more African countries supported it than abstained. But still in relative terms, quite a lot abstained. So, it’s a bit iffy, Africa, and that’s why there’s been a lot of diplomacy by Russia and the West on this continent since the invasion because both sides are trying to win over African support.

Read more: Putin’s “Shadow army” – Wagner – On the move again…

Demand to reopen Ukrainian grain exports, alternative Putin grain plan

One thing they ought to be doing, apart from anything else, is demanding that Russia reinstate this Black Sea grain initiative which is allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported from the country to reach markets, to reach Africa, basically to reach global markets, and therefore to keep the prices down. Maybe in the private discussions, there will be some mention of that. I would hope that President Ramaphosa would at least mention that. 

There are definitely suggestions that Putin might try to unveil a kind of alternative plan at the summit because he knows there has been criticism and it might even be why some African leaders didn’t attend. He’s hoping to unveil a plan that would cut out Ukraine. One doesn’t know what that means. At its worst, it could mean transporting Ukrainian grain across land borders into Russia and putting it on the market.

The Russian President announced at the summit that he would be providing free grain to six African countries, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea in the coming months.  

Read more: The BRICS Summit – Great expectations. Great challenges…

How the West sees the Africa-Russia summit

It won’t go down well and it is quite a precarious moment still because they are continually reviewing the eligibility of African countries to participate in AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act)). There was a hearing this week, in which the South African government did not seem to participate. Alan Winde, the Western Cape Premier participated and strongly urged them not to drop South Africa because the Western Cape benefits from it. Ebrahim Patel, the Trade Minister was there last week or the week before, making the same case. All these things add up. 

Removing Ukrainian children forcibly amounts to ethnic cleansing

Ironically to me at least, in that forum, the forum which they now call the economic and humanitarian forum, it used to be called just the economic forum, and they added humanitarian, which some people would think was the height of irony, his commissioner for children’s rights, is the woman who has been indicted alongside Putin by the International Criminal Court. She is leading a discussion on the protection of children’s rights. So, you can see in that discussion no one’s going to say, by the way, children have the right not to be forcibly removed from their home country and  transported to another country which to me is actually ethnic cleansing. That’s really what it’s about. I mean, Putin defended it at that meeting with Ramaphosa and the other envoys in the peace mission saying, well, we’re doing it to protect them. Even if that were true, it’s like we’re bombing and invading this country, so we’re  taking these children now to protect them from what we are doing, basically. 

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