Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday interrupted opening remarks by African leaders seeking to mediate in the Ukraine conflict to deliver a list of reasons why he believed many of their proposals were misguided.
Putin first welcomed leaders from Senegal, Egypt, Zambia, Uganda, Congo Republic, Comoros and South Africa to the 18th-century Konstantinovsky Palace on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, stressing Russia’s commitment to the continent.
But after presentations from the Comoran, Senegalese and South African leaders, he stepped in to challenge the assumptions of the plan before the round of comments from all the representatives could go any further.
Putin reiterated his position that Ukraine and the West had started the conflict long before Russia sent its armed forces over the border in February last year.
He said the West, not Russia, was responsible for a sharp rise in global food prices early last year.
He told the delegation that Ukrainian grain exports from Black Sea ports that Russia has permitted for the past year were doing nothing to alleviate Africa’s difficulties with high food prices because they had largely gone to wealthy countries.
He said Russia had never refused talks with the Ukrainian side, which had been blocked by Kyiv.
The African plan includes a call for all children caught up in the conflict to be returned to where they came from, but Putin said Russia was not preventing any Ukrainian children from returning home.
SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENCY