Russia-Ukraine Crisis and African Mediators

On October 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a meeting with President of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo, who is also Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in the Kremlin.

The agenda included such topics as development of bilateral relations, topical regional and international issues, and Russia’s engagement with ECOWAS, including preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit scheduled for July 2023.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, good afternoon.

I am very glad to see you. Next year we will mark the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, but this is the first meeting of the presidents, heads of state. We are very glad to see you in Russia.

Throughout the history of Guinea-Bissau, its fight for independence and afterward, during the formation of Guinea-Bissau statehood, Russia – both the Soviet Union and Russia – and your country have always enjoyed very good and very warm relations. And today we continue to develop the very same relations.

Of course, we still have a lot to do to promote trade, economic and cultural ties, though even now, considering cooperation in education, the situation is developing quite positively.

I know that you are now the head of the Economic Community of West African States, with 400 million people living in its member countries and an overall GDP of US$550 billion. And in general, Russia has very decent trade with it and, most importantly, very good trade growth.

We hope that a significant contribution will also be made to the development of relations with Guinea-Bissau, with the ECOWAS member states, and with the entire African continent during your chairmanship of this organisation.

As you know, in 2019 we held a very successful Russia-Africa summit in Sochi. We are planning to hold a similar summit next July in our northern capital, St Petersburg. Mr President, we are very glad to see you. Welcome to Russia!

President of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo (retranslated): Thank you.

I think it is very important that our relations develop and adapt. Guinea-Bissau has also been historically an unshakable partner of Russia and the Soviet Union.

I represent ECOWAS, too, so I will pass on a message from all its member states.

You can see that today’s situation in relation to the war between two brotherly nations, Russia and Ukraine, as well as with regard to grain and fertilisers, has blocked progress all over the world. This is very important. We think and hope that we will be able to find a way to establish a dialogue between the two brotherly nations.

I also think it is crucial for President Putin to tell us what he can do to resolve this conflict. The position of Africa in this context shows in reality that what Russia brings to the world is very important.

I would also like to say that we are partners and would like to discuss security issues in West Africa.

Russia is present in all countries of the world; you have embassies everywhere. We would also like to discuss matters of importance, such as the role you play in the world. I have come as a brother and a friend, of course. <…>

Russian Media Reports:

African leader delivers ‘message’ from Putin to Zelensky

Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embalo, the president of Guinea-Bissau, claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin asked him to convey a “message” to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky about the importance of “direct dialogue” between Moscow and Kiev. Embalo made this revelation at a joint press conference with Zelensky in Kiev, one day after his meeting with Putin.

“My dear brother, yesterday I was in Russia with President [Vladimir] Putin, who asked me to give you a message, to talk to you, considering that a direct dialogue is very important for our future joint actions,” Embalo said.

A video of the press conference was published on Zelensky’s Telegram channel, with Embalo’s remarks translated into Ukrainian.

The president of Guinea-Bissau also revealed that he saw himself as the “bearer of certain impulses” by contributing to the restoration of relations between Russia and Ukraine.

Before his meeting with Zelensky, Embalo told journalists that he found Putin “to be very open to negotiating with President Zelensky” and that he was looking forward “to conveying this goodwill” to the Ukrainian leader.

Zelensky, responding at the press conference to Embalo’s remarks, said that in order to build bridges between countries, “one should not blow up the infrastructure.” Zelensky was apparently referring to the strikes on Ukraine’s power stations launched by Russia on October 10 in what Moscow described as retaliation for Kiev’s “terrorist attack” on the Crimean Bridge. The Ukrainian leader also said that any conversation involves respect of one country for another one, starting from respecting “its territorial integrity, sovereignty, and borders.(Source: Russia Today)

No special message to Zelensky sent by Putin via Guinea-Bissau president — Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not convey any special message on possible dialogue between Moscow and Kiev to his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky via President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Sissoco Embalo, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

“Our colleague from the African state expressed his willingness, he said that he would have contacts and he would convey Putin’s stance to the Ukrainian side. There is no specific message in this case and this was not discussed,” the Kremlin official replied to a question as to whether the Russian leader had sent such a message. Earlier, Embalo said that this message allegedly existed.

Putin’s press secretary explained that during a recent conversation with Guinea-Bissau’s president in the Kremlin, “Putin informed his colleague about the March talks and the work of Russian and Ukrainian negotiating teams.”

“He said that the text was practically ready, a very complex balance was achieved and how then suddenly the Ukrainian side went off the radar, declared its unwillingness to continue talks and later this unwillingness was practically turned into a law which forbade the Ukrainian side and the Ukrainian president, and all others, from holding negotiations with Russia and with President Putin,” Peskov added.

“That said, the [Russian] president apparently emphasized that this unwillingness to negotiate and the rejection of the previously coordinated agreements obviously occurred on Washington’s orders. This is completely obvious,” the Kremlin spokesman concluded.

He noted that “currently, de facto, Russia is actually not changing its stance, we are ready to ensure our interests at the negotiating table, we want this, but in this case this is about the complete unwillingness on the part of Ukraine.” (Source: TASS)

Kester Kenn Klomegah
Kester Kenn Klomegah
MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.