Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has rebuked visiting African leaders in their bid to ease tensions in the country’s raging conflict with Russia and insisting on the need to “free out land.”
The diplomatic delegation came to Kiev on Friday to express the continent’s concerns about the fallout of the Ukraine conflict — particularly the rising grain prices – as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa insisted that peace must be achieved through negotiations.
Zelensky, however, dismissed the possibility of such negotiations during a joint press conference, telling reporters: “I clearly said several times at our meeting that to allow any negotiations with Russia now that the occupier is on our land is to freeze the war, to freeze pain and suffering”.
Quoting Nelson Mandela several times about the need for peace, Ramaphosa stressed, “It is precisely that type of event that we saw today… that makes us call for de-escalation.”
Zelensky said he asked African leaders to share their views on how to stop “crimes committed by Russia” and how to work towards food security.
“But first of all, we must restore the full force of the UN Charter and stop this brutal Russian aggression and free our land,” he proclaimed.
The African delegation comprised Ramaphosa as well as Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal, Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia and Azali Assoumani of Comoros, who currently heads the African Union.
The leaders of Uganda, Egypt and Congo-Brazzaville pulled out of the meeting at the last moment and sent representatives instead without elaborating on reasons.
African leaders were also scheduled to travel to the northwestern Russian city of St. Petersburg to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday.
“In our view it is important to listen very carefully to what both countries have to say Ramaphosa declared, adding that the delegation will also listen to Putin the next day.
Speaking at an annual economic forum in St. Petersburg on Friday, Putin announced the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus as a deterrent force and further referred to Zelensky as a “disgrace to the Jewish people.”
Russia first announced in March that it planned to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus and Putin declared on Friday that “the first nuclear warheads were delivered to the territory of Belarus.”
He said the weapons were intended as a deterrent to “those who are thinking of inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia.”
The Russian president also stated on Friday that he is prepared for any negotiations with Ukraine regarding the ongoing conflict.
“President Putin was and is open to any contacts to discuss possible scenarios for solving the Ukrainian problem,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as quoted in a Friday report by Interfax news agency.
Moscow has long maintained that it is open to talks, though it insists that Kiev must recognize “new realities” on the ground.