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African leaders begin arriving in Russia for Africa-Russia summit

by Martin Fornusek July 26, 2023 6:31 PM 2 min read
Flags promoting the upcoming second Russia-Africa summit are pictured outside St Isaac's Cathedral in Saint Petersburg on July 25, 2023. (Photo credit: OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images)
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African leaders have started to arrive in St. Petersburg ahead of the two-day Africa-Russia summit set to start on July 27, the Russian Embassy in South Africa announced on July 26.

According to Yurii Ushakov, an advisor to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, the goal of the summit is to promote Russian-African cooperation in all areas. The event's slogan is "For Peace, Security, and Development."

The Moscow Times commented that the Kremlin is likely seeking to tighten economic cooperation with African countries amid deepening isolation from the West.

Ushakov said that 49 out of 54 invited countries have confirmed participation. Only 17 of them will be represented by their heads of state, however. This is significantly less than during the inaugural Sochi summit in 2019, where 43 heads of state took part in the event.

Putin met Etihopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on July 26 ahead of the summit. The Russian dictator said that Moscow appreciates "the long-standing friendly ties between Russia and Ethiopia, based on the principles of mutual respect and consideration for each other's interests."

The Independent reported that Putin will also meet the leadership of Egypt for bilateral talks on the same day.

The main part of the event will be held on July 28. At the end of the summit, the participants will adopt a joint declaration and approve an action plan of the Russia-Africa Forum for the period 2023-2026.

Moscow has long sought to nurture close relations with states in Africa.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov toured Africa in July 2022 and February 2023 to ramp up support for his country and blame Ukraine for a lack of food supplies amid Russia's naval blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports, vital for the export of Ukrainian grain.

Russia broke off the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17, blocking Ukrainian grain exports and threatening spikes in food prices worldwide. According to the Financial Times, Putin hopes to reach a deal with Turkey and Qatar to instead distribute Russian grain to Africa.

A delegation of African leaders visited St. Petersburg in June to discuss their proposed peace plan between Ukraine and Russia.

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