On Saturday, June 17th, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a group of African leaders in St. Petersburg, fresh off their meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. Their visit comes amid the second year of the ongoing conflict between Kyiv and Moscow, where they proposed a 10-point peace plan.
The delegation included South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Senegalese President Macky Sall, President Othman Ghazali of Comoros, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, and Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, accompanied by high-ranking officials from the Republic of Congo and Uganda.
During the meeting, Putin shared the specifics of a previously attempted peace treaty focusing on Ukrainian neutrality. He explained that in March 2022, Russia and Ukraine had arrived at a mutual understanding of the key principles of Ukrainian neutrality and security assurances. However, Ukraine unexpectedly backed out of the agreement, Putin revealed.
He then presented the draft documents, which had been a topic of negotiation between Russian and Ukrainian representatives in Turkey. Putin, emphasizing Moscow’s consistent openness to dialogue, pointed out that the agreement collapsed due to interference by Kyiv and its supporters.
Putin revealed that the Ukrainian representatives had signed the “Treaty on the Permanent Neutrality and Security Guarantees for Ukraine.”
This draft treaty required Ukraine to enshrine “permanent neutrality” within its Constitution. The Treaty named several guarantors, including Russia, the United States, Britain, China, and France.
“Kyiv authorities, like their masters usually do, threw it all away into the graveyard of history,” Putin said, expressing doubts about Ukraine’s commitment to future agreements. He added, “However, even under such circumstances, we have never refused to conduct negotiations.”
Putin also disclosed an extension of the draft discussing Russian and Ukrainian suggestions concerning Ukraine’s peacetime army size and equipment. Russia proposed that Ukraine have a maximum of 85,000 military personnel and 15,000 National Guard members, while Ukraine suggested having up to 250,000 troops.
The dialogue between Russia and Ukraine also extended to the limitation of military equipment, including tanks, armored vehicles, and rocket launchers, among other machinery that Ukraine could maintain.
The peace talks collapsed in the spring of 2022 after Ukrainian authorities accused Russian forces of killing civilians in various small cities near Kyiv. These allegations followed the Russian troops’ withdrawal from areas around the Ukrainian capital, which the Kremlin described as “a goodwill gesture.”
Putin accused Ukraine of destroying the peace talks, stating, “They abandoned everything after we pulled our troops away from Kyiv.”
10-Point Peace Roadmap
The African delegation presented Putin with a concise 10-point peace roadmap outlining measures to end the Moscow-Kyiv conflict.
The plan encourages negotiation, de-escalation, lifting trade restrictions, and delivering humanitarian aid. It also advocates for prisoner release and the return of the displaced.
Delegation Visit to Kyiv
Before arriving in Moscow, the delegation met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on June 16th to help mediate the conflict.
Zelensky insisted on Russia’s complete withdrawal from Ukrainian soil as a precondition for peace talks.
“We need real peace and, therefore, a real withdrawal of Russian troops from our entire independent land,” Zelensky emphasized, noting that dialogue under the current conditions would normalize the conflict.
He reiterated Ukraine’s stance that talks could only commence after Russia relinquishes Crimea, which voted to become part of Russia in 2014, and four other regions that followed suit after referendums in September 2022.
Among the topics discussed were maintaining grain exports and Russian fertilizer shipments to help alleviate potential food scarcity in Africa, which could affect up to 20 million people in the Horn of Africa this year.
Grain and other food supplies have been disrupted in Africa since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, leading to a spike in inflation.
While African nations have mostly remained neutral in the Ukrainian conflict, the delegation strives to agree on measures to foster confidence.