African leaders arrive in Russia for summit as Kremlin seeks allies in Ukraine war

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It’s the second Russia-Africa summit since 2019. But on the eve of the event the number of attending heads of state had shrunk from 43 to 17, a drop that the Kremlin blamed on Western interference.

African leaders have been arriving in St Petersburg ahead of a summit that Moscow hopes will boost its influence in the continent and win it more support in the context of the Ukraine war. 

“Today, Africa is asserting itself more and more confidently as one of the poles of the emerging multipolar world,” Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

The two-day conference comes in the wake of Russia pulling out of the Black Sea grain deal.

Africa’s 54 nations make up the largest voting bloc at the United Nations and have been more divided than any other region on General Assembly resolutions criticising Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

It’s the second Russia-Africa summit since 2019. The number of heads of state attending shrank from 43 then to 17 now because of what the Kremlin described as a crude Western pressure to discourage African nations from taking part.

President Vladimir Putin sought to reassure the leaders, including Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whom he met separately, that Russia could send enough grain to compensate Africa for the loss of Ukrainian shipments.

Along with grain, another issue likely to be on the agenda will be the fate of Russia’s Wagner military company led by Yevgeny Prigozhin following its brief rebellion against the Kremlin last month.

The fate of future contracts with the Wagner mercenary group is also likely to be discussed. The leaders of countries like Mali and Sudan rely on its military support and, after June’s failed uprising, uncertainty remains over what role the private army will play in Africa.

A peace proposal for Ukraine that African leaders have tried to pursue is set to be discussed as well.

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