As Russian FM Lavrov Concludes Africa Trip, What Was on the Agenda?

Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Demeke Mekonnen hosts Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

29 July 2022

by Denis Bolotsky

Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa was the fourth destination on the schedule of Russia’s top diplomat, who also visited Egypt, the Republic of Congo and Uganda earlier this week.

The talks in all four countries were dedicated to bilateral relations as well as international issues, such as food and energy security and Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine and Donbass.

Sergei Lavrov’s motorcade entered the governmental compound in Addis Ababa early in the morning on Wednesday. He was greeted by Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, and after meeting with the president, he went to the foreign ministry to hold talks with the country’s top diplomat, Demeke Mekonnen.

Later, Sergei Lavrov and his Ethiopian counterpart planted cedar trees at Addis Ababa’s Russian diplomatic compound, the second largest in the world after the Embassy in Beijing. The ceremony was held in support of the Ethiopian government’s “Green Legacy” program.

When it comes to the hospitality of locals, Addis Ababa was no different from Lavrov’s previous African destinations: in Egypt’s Cairo, the town of Oyo in the Republic of Congo and in Entebbe, Uganda, the Russian delegation was warmly welcomed and treated like close friends.

Africa and Russia have long-standing relations, with many recalling the events of the Soviet era and the support given by the USSR to independence struggles throughout the African continent.

For the Russian foreign minister, it was his first visit to the Republic of Congo, but he appeared to be on friendly terms with many local politicians, such as his Congolese counterpart Jean-Claude Gakosso, who studied in the USSR and speaks fluent Russian.

Assisting African nations in education is one of the areas that Moscow wants to focus on. More students from the Republic of Congo and from Ethiopia will be able to attend Russian universities, as the scholarship quota for Congolese students will see a triple increase next year.

Other areas of common interest for several of the nations that Lavrov visited this week are military and military-technical cooperation, energy, natural resources and information technology. Russia is also ready to work together with Africa in the medical field. Moscow offered to work with the Republic of Congo in the development of joint epidemiology projects, with a lab based in the African country, and also provided the nation with a humanitarian shipment of monkeypox test systems.

Russia’s friendly attitude towards African nations seems to be welcomed by many on the continent, while political pressure from the West, mainly the EU and the UK, is met with hostility, as it reminds many locals of colonial times.

So, when some Western diplomats reportedly tried to persuade African leaders to implement anti-Russian sanctions and to stop communicating with Moscow because of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine, many of them, like the Ugandan leadership, ignored those calls.

The situation in Ukraine has been mentioned during many discussions held by Russia’s top diplomat and his colleagues. In Addis Ababa, Lavrov invited ambassadors from Africa and other nations who are stationed in the Ethiopian capital to the Russian embassy to talk to them about key elements of Moscow’s foreign policy. He spoke in English and answered questions from representatives of Angola, South Sudan, Pakistan and other nations.

In his speech, Sergei Lavrov explained some of the underlying causes of the Ukrainian conflict, which left Russia with no other choice but to act. They included Kiev’s sabotage of the Minsk Agreements:
“[The] Minsk agreements were signed, keeping Ukraine [in] one piece. The eastern territories of Ukraine, which initially declared independence after the coup, were persuaded not to insist on independence. They were persuaded to stay inside Ukraine by the Minsk agreements, provided they were given special status – first of all, the right to use the Russian language. This was endorsed by the security council, and this was systemically, totally ignored and sabotaged by the Kiev regime."

Russia’s top diplomat added that when Moscow realized that the only way to save the people of Eastern Ukraine was to recognize the independence of the Donbass republics, Russia did so, and at their request launched a special military operation aimed at saving the lives of the local population.

The head of Russian diplomacy has admitted that the situation in Ukraine has had an impact on the global food market, but Moscow’s actions are not the main driving force. Lavrov is certain that it was the “inadequate reaction” of the West that has caused most of the problems, as anti-Russian sanctions have paralyzed the logistics, financial transactions via Russian banks as well as insurance-related operations, all of which eventually contributed to the disruptions of global food supply chains.

Sergei Lavrov has invited his African colleagues to take part in the next Russia-Africa Summit, which is expected to be held in the middle of 2023.

Even though the Russian foreign minister has finished his African journey, he will stay on the road for a few more days. He is expected to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting, with top diplomats from the bloc’s nations gathering in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to prepare for the SCO leaders’ Samarkand summit scheduled for September.

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