A year after the start of this war, almost half of African states refuse to characterize the conflict as an aggression by Russia against your country. Isn’t that a source of disappointment for you?
Yuri Pyvovarov: Indeed. Today, unfortunately, it is difficult to say that all African countries understand the causes and especially the consequences of the Russian war against Ukraine. It’s certain. I also agree that Russia today also has a more powerful capital of sympathy in Africa than Ukraine. But I can also tell you that today the situation is different. Believe me, since February 24, 2022, I can see that a number of countries on the African continent are waking up and starting – cautiously for now, it must be admitted – to understand the real situation. The number has increased and this is an indisputable fact. In my opinion, one should not be afraid of the Russian invaders.
Since the beginning of this century, thanks to its relations with the ANC of South Africa, thanks to the coalition of the countries of the Brics [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa], Russia occupies an important place on the African chessboard. Hasn’t Ukraine neglected Africa for the past twenty years?
I tell you yes. It must be recognized that we, Ukraine, have lost a lot of time, especially in terms of dialogue with Africa, that’s for sure. But in recent years, we are moving in the right direction. For example, in this past year alone, since February 24, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelensky has had 24 telephone conversations with the leaders of African countries. Two years ago, there were only three. So we are making up for lost time. And in addition, it is obvious that we must strengthen our diplomatic presence in Africa. President Volodymyr Zelensky recently decided to open ten Ukrainian embassies in Africa.
How many embassies do you currently have in Africa?
Ten embassies and there will be ten more. In total, I hope that in 2023, we will have around twenty embassies. It’s already something.
For many Africans, one of the strengths of Russia is that this country, unlike France or Great Britain, would never have been a colonial power and would not have imperialist aims in Africa. . What do you think ?
I do not agree. Some African countries are already slowly beginning to come to the conclusion that Russia is indeed a colonizing country. Among other things, I am talking about the so-called military services of the terrorist group called Wagner.
You talk about the Wagner group, but isn’t this precisely an asset for Russia since, with this group, it can offer its security assistance to a certain number of regimes, in the Central African Republic and in Mali for example?
In my opinion, it is the syndrome of the former USSR, since the imperial ambitions of Vladimir Putin, we know them very well. His choice today has mainly fallen on Africa, where of course the USSR once had significant influence. Because we see that the Wagners behave there like at home. And this is the beginning of this colonization, not only at the security level, but also economically and politically.
Two months ago, in December 2022, according to our colleague Le Monde newspaper, during the Washington summit, the United States proposed to Central African President Faustin Archange Touadéra a twelve-month plan to oust the Wagner militiamen from the Central African Republic and to replace them with US military and US economic and humanitarian aid. What do you think ?
It is quite obvious that the Wagners are one of the elements or instruments of influence on the leaders of the various African countries. In addition, representatives of this group are already beginning to feel at home in some countries of the continent. I do not understand the position of these countries and I always ask the same question to my African colleagues: do they not see that these are really criminals who make money by killing people? So, in my opinion, they should be expelled. As for the United States, I am convinced that they will offer this country greater and more effective aid, humanitarian, economic, security, than Russia, whose economy continues, it can be seen, to decline under the effect international sanctions.
But when you see all the countries visited in Africa by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, aren’t you afraid that next July, in Saint Petersburg, during the next Russia-Africa summit, there are many African heads of state?
Yes. There will be many, but I think there will be fewer heads of state and government than at the last Africa-Russia summit in Sochi in 2019, since my sources, my contacts tell me that, little by little , some countries are already beginning to reflect and evolve. We’ll see.
Is Ukraine considering a summit with Africa?
For now, yes, of course. We have an idea, we are working on it. A conference maybe. Of course, we are thinking about holding this event.
This year 2023?
Yes, I think so or, at the latest, in the first quarter of next year.
Source : RFI