Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks at a press conference...

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks at a press conference at a hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Kuleba urged African countries to abandon their stances of neutrality towards his country's war with Russia. Credit: AP

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is urging African countries to abandon their stances of neutrality towards his country’s war with Russia.

Many African countries have refused to take sides in the European conflict, with several abstaining from votes at the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s invasion. Ethiopia is one of them.

Speaking in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on Wednesday, Kuleba said Ukraine was “very upset that some African countries chose to abstain” and called them to lend Ukraine diplomatic support “in the face of Russian aggression.”

“Neutrality is not the answer,” he told reporters. “By being neutral towards Russian aggression against Ukraine, you project neutrality to the violations of borders and mass crimes that may occur very close to you.”

Russia has built a substantial presence in several parts of Africa, where Russian private military contractor Wagner is active, and recently held joint military drills with South Africa. Russia plans to hold an Africa-Russia summit in July.

Kuleba also called on African countries to endorse the “ten-point peace formula” proposed by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in December and emphasised Ukraine’s wish to build “mutually beneficial” relations with Africa, based on trade in energy, technology and pharmaceuticals.

“We have to remind each other of the importance of Africa to Ukraine and the importance of Ukraine to Africa,” Kubela said, admitting that Ukraine’s previous attitude towards the continent was characterised by “inertia.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba arrives for a press conference...

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba arrives for a press conference at a hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Kuleba urged African countries to abandon their stances of neutrality towards his country's war with Russia. Credit: AP

Both Ukraine and Russia supply a significant amount of grain to Africa.

Kubela is currently on an African tour that also includes visits to Morocco and Rwanda. In Ethiopia, he held discussions with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat and Azali Assoumani, the president of the Comoros and current chair of the continent-wide body.

Kubela made his first trip to Africa in October when he visited Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Kenya. The trip was cut short after Russia launched strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure.

His Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, has also been active in shoring up ties with African countries since the Ukraine war broke out, touring the continent once in 2021 and making at least two visits so far this year.

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