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JEREMY MAGGS: Now we have a statement today from the South African government that reads, in part, it welcomes an initiative by African heads of state to lead and facilitate peace talks aimed at resolving the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The African leaders’ peace mission says the statement was presented by President [Cyril] Ramaphosa to both President Vladimir Putin and President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy during separate telephone calls.
Joining us now on Moneyweb@Midday is Ukraine Ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova. Ambassador, a very good afternoon to you. The initiative that is being proposed by the South African government, along with African heads of state – do you think there is any value in it? Is it an initiative that could work?
LIUBOV ABRAVITOVA: Good afternoon and thank you for having me on the station. First of all, the peace talks that appear to be known after the discussion and telephone conversation between Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the President of South Africa Ramaphosa were received with agreement and approval from the Ukrainian side.
We consider that today all the leaders of different countries in the world have to join efforts in order to stop Russian aggression in Ukraine.
JEREMY MAGGS: If this initiative proceeds, what then, in your opinion, are the next steps?
LIUBOV ABRAVITOVA: What is important to understand is that as yet we don’t know the details or technicalities, modalities of the peace plan proposals from African leaders.
We’ve seen that recently there were several visits of special envoys from China, from Brazil, and all of them have their plans.
What we really have to keep in mind that the war that Russia is waging against Ukraine is happening on the territory of Ukraine. So the only plan that will work for us with the support of, including African leaders, is the Ukrainian peace plan and eventually what we are trying to achieve is sustainable peace and security guarantees for Ukraine.
JEREMY MAGGS: Ambassador, are you concerned about South Africa’s close relationship with Russia preventing it from being an arbitrator or a neutral party should any type of dialogue proceed?
LIUBOV ABRAVITOVA: First of all, we are aware about the strategic partnership and position within the Brics [Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa] and the existing ties between these two countries, though we always want and will be reminding everyone that during the USSR times, Ukraine being a part of that union, was a very crucial partner and played an important role in Africa for the liberation movements and with the struggle against apartheid. This is the first point.
Second point, we are hoping to see the South African side and African leaders to speak to the Ukrainian side to be aware about the realities on the ground.
By the way, this particular initiative will bring them the additional opportunity to see with their own eyes that Russia’s propaganda was overwhelming in the region, and that the Russia is not only living in a parallel reality, but also trying to make African countries and leaders believe that this is the real situation on the ground.
JEREMY MAGGS: Ambassador, the South African government statement says it remains concerned about the contribution of the conflict to Africa’s increasing food insecurity with the rising costs of grain and fertiliser. On the surface, the offer to mediate in talks would seem transactional, that there could be an ulterior motive here.
LIUBOV ABRAVITOVA: The consequences of Russian aggression in Ukraine are visible and sensible in every part of the world, and every country is interested to stop Russia in order to prevent further deterioration of the food crisis, but not only of the food crisis, because this war has different dimensions and different consequences.
JEREMY MAGGS: You’ve also said in the past, Ambassador, that you remain concerned that Pretoria is not able to call Russian aggression in Ukraine what it is, Russian aggression in Ukraine. I’m assuming then, in spite of the overture that’s been made, you do remain deeply cynical and sceptical about this.
LIUBOV ABRAVITOVA: I’m not deeply cynical and sceptical.
I am thinking that the coming engagements and visits will really help us to call the aggression, the aggression, the Russian invasion, the invasion, violation of international law, by its names.
It will finally bring to knowledge of all the people that it’s Ukraine, and not the Ukraine. The Ukraine was the name of the country that was used during USSR times when Ukraine was the part of something bigger. So for 30-plus years, we call Ukraine as Ukraine and, of course, the presidents will come to Kyiv, not Key-ev, to see what kind of ancient, beautiful, and potential city it is and how it is living through that brutal unprovoked war of Russia today.
JEREMY MAGGS: Ambassador, we are going to leave it there, thank you very much indeed. Ukraine’s Ambassador to South Africa.