KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A delegation of African leaders and senior officials sought in Ukraine on Friday to end the country’s full-scale war with Russia and ensure food and fertilizer supplies. For their continent, the airstrike in Gaya was a reminder of the challenges they faced during their stay.
A delegation consisting of the presidents of South Africa, Senegal, Zambia and the Comoros Islands was the first to visit Bucha.A Kyiv suburb where bodies of civilians littered the streets last year after Russian troops abandoned their campaign to capture the capital and withdrew from the area.
The delegation’s stop in Bucha is symbolically important as the city has come to witness the brutality of Moscow’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The Russian occupation of Bucha left hundreds of civilians dead in the streets and in mass graves. Some showed signs of torture.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said last month Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to separate meetings with members of the African peacekeeping mission.
The delegation is set to visit St Petersburg on Friday, where Russia’s top international economic conference is being held, and meet Putin on Saturday. This includes senior officials from Uganda, Egypt and Congo-Brazzaville.
Members of the delegation represent a cross-section of African views on war. South Africa, Senegal and Uganda refrained from censuring Moscow for the conflict, while Egypt, Zambia and the Comoros voted against Russia in a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s invasion. Many African countries have long had close ties with Moscow, dating back to the Cold War when the Soviet Union supported their anti-colonial struggles.
While in Bucha, visitors place memorial candles at a small memorial outside St. Andrew’s Church.
Shortly after, air raid sirens began wailing in Ukraine’s capital. Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said an explosion occurred in the Podilsky district, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
“Russian missiles are a message to Africa: Russia still wants war, not peace,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
Ukraine’s air force said it shot down six Russian Kalibr missiles, six Kinzel hypersonic ballistic missiles and two spy drones. No details were given as to where they were shot dead.
Germany will deliver 64 more Patriot missiles to Ukraine to help defend it against Russia’s relentless airstrikes, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Friday.
Officials helping to lay the groundwork for the delegation’s talks said African leaders not only aimed to jump-start the peace process, but were also assessing how Russia, under tough international sanctions, could pay for much-needed fertilizer exports to Africa.
They are also set to discuss securing more grain exports from Ukraine amid the war and the possibility of more prisoner transfers.
“Life is universal and we must protect lives — Ukrainian lives, Russian lives, global life,” Zambian President Hakainte Hichilema told The Associated Press. “Instability anywhere is instability everywhere.”
The African peace deal comes as Ukraine launches a counteroffensive to drive the Kremlin’s forces out of the occupied territories, using Western-supplied advanced weapons along a 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front. Western analysts and military officials have warned that the campaign could be prolonged.
China presented its own peace plan At the end of February but the chances of success are slim. Ukraine and its allies have largely rejected the proposal, and the warring parties are no closer to a ceasefire.
Ukrainian troops recorded victories in three areas of the front line in the south and east, spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Andriy Kovalev said in a statement on Friday.
According to Kovalev, Ukrainian forces advanced south of the city of Orikhiv in Zaporizhia province, in the direction of the village of Robotyn, around Levatne and Staromyorsk, and further east along the border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk province.
Kovalev said Ukraine’s troops had also advanced in areas around the mining town of Vuhlader in Donetsk, one of the main tank battles of the war so far.
The claims could not be independently verified.
Russian shelling on Thursday and overnight killed two civilians and wounded two others in southern Ukraine’s flood-hit Kherson region, where a large dam was destroyed last week.According to the governor of the region Oleksandr Prokhudin.
Earlier in the day, Russian forces launched 54 attacks across the province, using mortars, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, drones, missiles and aircraft, Prokhutin said.
Floodwaters in the Kherson region continue to recede, with an average level of 1.67 meters (about 5 feet) in the affected areas. According to the office of the President of Ukraine, the Khakovka dam immediately fell from 5 meters (16 feet) after it broke last Tuesday.
Contributed by Keir Molson in Berlin
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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