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Is Russia Courting Malawi Support on Ukraine?

BLANTYRE, MALAWI — Russia’s ambassador to Malawi has said he hopes African leaders will call for an end to the international sanctions against Moscow at an upcoming Russia-Africa summit. Nikolai Krasilnikov made the comment Monday, as Russia made a donation of 20,000 tons of fertilizer to Malawi. An analyst says Russia is likely trying to win diplomatic support for its war in Ukraine.

The donation amounts to 3% of Malawi’s annual national fertilizer requirement of 600,000 tons.

Sam Kawale, Malawi’s minister of agriculture, said the fertilizer is a major boost for the country. Malawi is dealing with shortages in its Agriculture Inputs Program, which sells supplies like seeds and fertilizer to poor farmers at cheaper prices.

“The 20,000 tons of fertilizer, which we are receiving today, will help about 400,000 families,” Kawale said. “We are estimating that 800,000 metric tons of maize will be harvested, either using the rain-fed or irrigation.”

The donation is part of the U.N.-brokered Black Sea Grain initiative, designed to end the disruptions in Russian and Ukrainian food exports caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

The Associated Press quoted Krasilnikov Monday saying he hopes African leaders will help press to remove sanctions against Moscow at a July Russia-Africa summit. He said overall, Russia has given 260,000 tons of fertilizers to poor countries in Africa and other parts of the world.

“So, what we have now as the delivery to Malawi, is part of a big commitment of Russia being fulfilled by Uralchem-Uralkali, the main Russian manufacturer of fertilizer and one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of fertilizers,” Krasilnikov said.

Malawian political analyst George Phiri said the donation may be driven by Russia’s desire to win more African support at the U.N. and against the sanctions that many Western countries placed on allies of President Vladimir Putin following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“In my view, it is possible that Russia would want to mobilize some African countries to be on her side, and Malawi could be one, looking at how many African countries are voting against Russia,” Phiri said.

At the United Nations General Assembly last year, Malawi voted to censure Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, but more than 15 other African countries abstained from the vote.

Krasilnikov said Monday that Putin has invited Malawian officials to attend the Russia/Africa Summit slated for July in Moscow.

“We expect a delegation from Lilongwe to the summit,” Krasilnikov said. “As well as we expect the Malawian business community from all over the country to come to the economic forum. And we encourage all interested to approach the Russian embassy in Zimbabwe where my residence is, to come and find all necessary requirements and details.”

Malawi minister of agriculture Kawale told reporters that Malawi has welcomed the Russian invitation.

In August 2022, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera had a phone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and assured him of Malawi’s support as Ukraine continued to defend itself from Russia’s attack.

However, Russia has since pledged to assist Malawi to fight its worst cholera outbreak that has now killed over 1,600 since it started a year ago.

Phiri said it will be confusing if Malawi changes tune and begins to give support for Russia.

“Malawi seems to have a mixed position,” Phiri said. “I think it would be important for Malawi to decide whether for Russian or for Ukraine because now, Malawi shows that it has not decided on which team it supports in this case.”

Phiri said Russia would only win support from African countries if it could make better economic deals than what the countries normally get from their Western development partners.

Source : VOANews

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