The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, held a digital press conference with African media to discuss expanding ties with African countries, why it is impossible to have a position of neutrality, and the specific ways African countries could help end the war.
Mr Zelenskyy recalled that the current situation in Ukraine is similar in many ways to what is happening on the African continent and insisted that the global security system needs to be revised.
“For a long time, the world did not care, and this is wrong. We always talked about this: people who have been going through war for eight years. There is no long-distance war. What is happening in Ukraine has been happening for many years in many places on the African continent. This injustice is absolute, and the security infrastructure of the whole world needs to be changed. These international institutions need to be changed for them to work. And we stand for it.”
When asked why Africans should help Ukrainians now, even though the world does not help them enough, the President of Ukraine replied that they know how it hurts when the world does not pay attention to one’s problem, war, or poverty. He told that the people of Africa know what it’s like to be ignored. Therefore, on the contrary, they should speak out and support.
“We do not divide the countries of the African continent into those who advocate neutrality in the war against us and those who support us. We know and are ready to supply all countries with grain and wheat. Because hunger is not neutral. Hunger comes to the country, no matter what the position of this state was before the war. It is hunger, and it is about the fact that people will die. I know that we can help the countries of the African continent without dividing them, just as they should unite to support Ukraine. Because we have the truth on our side.”
Mr Zelenskyy insisted that it is important to win the information war. He invited journalists from the African continent to visit Ukraine and see what’s happening in the country and meet the Ukrainian people.
“We are not different from you. We may have different educations, may have studied different textbooks, we had different teachers, but we still share the same values with you. It must be conveyed that Russia is just a colonizer that wants to occupy and destroy our country. This information war must be fair. The truth must prevail.”
The President of Ukraine said his country needs sanction support from the African countries in order to have the world united so that Russia won’t be able to circumvent any sanctions.
“Russia stole the grain from our ports and then exported those stolen products to other countries. The circumventions allow Russia to feel that the war can stay for long, that they could still be able to accumulate money from trade using the sea corridors, using their own oil and gas pipelines. And we need to have our policy united and combined because otherwise, Russia won’t stop their influence or the effect on the security and stability in the world.”
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also drew attention to the fact that Russia invests less than 1% of all investments in the African continent.
“Russia does not invest in you as in countries, nations, or societies. This means that Russia does not believe in you. All Russian investments are just political. Russia comes to you, and tells you that they are a great state, the heir of the Soviet Union, says, “We need to expand our ties.” If all Russian investments in African countries are only 1%, then this is their price, this is their faith in the future of the African continent.”
Mr President also stated that it’s Russia that prevents bread and wheat from reaching Africa with force and weapons, blocking Ukrainian ports. Ukraine didn’t block the supply of food products and is fighting Russia with other sanctions.
Mr Zelensky said that when this war will end depends on how the world will unite around Ukraine, because tomorrow the same might happen to them.
“If Putin wins this war, it will be the beginning of World War III. The big world autocracies will do the same. The world will be plunged into chaos. A provoked food insecurity, a provoked energy insecurity – even not insecurity but the crisis that Russian Federation provoked last year; a war started by Russia – all these things are just the beginning, it can be even worse.”
The President of Ukraine shared that, before the war, he had tried to persuade European and other leaders to help him hold direct negotiations with the president of Russia to avoid the war he saw coming. There would always be excuses not to give this dialogue a chance. However, he said that there are no peace talks with Russia.
“There is an ultimatum from them to us. An ultimatum that says, “If you don’t do what we want we’ll keep killing you.” You tell me, if someone breaks into your apartment, into your home, murders your child, what will you say to this person? Will you kill them? Or will you tell them “Stop, please don’t do this. Tell me why you killed my child”? No, you will fight back because you have no time to talk – next he will kill you and the rest of your family. They don’t offer us dialogue. They demand that we give up and accept their terms – forget that we have our own land, our own flag, our history. They just want to erase us.”
Volodymyr Zelenskyy is convinced that in the future, Ukraine and African countries will have many joint economic projects. According to him, Ukraine is ready to be a guarantor of food security in African countries and would be happy to invest in African countries. Ukraine also strives for cultural exchange. In addition, Ukraine has one of the most developed IT industries in the world, a very high level of digital services for the population and is ready to share this experience.
“I believe that the African continent is an underestimated territory, underestimated countries and the potential of people. Because I know how underestimated our region and our people are. And now, due to the blocking of the ports, the whole world saw how much Ukraine has done and how much it can do.”
Mr Zelenskyy refuted the misinformation about the potential risks that weapons supplied to Ukraine might be smuggled out of the country to go to the African black market.
“We are not selling people, we are not selling weapons, we are not selling our dignity in our statehood. Now that’s the difference between Russia and Ukraine, between our military and their military. We have open software, an open program for our partners from the UK, from the United States and several other partner countries who are assisting us with weapons. You are not hearing from the leaders of the countries who are supplying weapons to us and humanitarian assistance to us.”
The President noted that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is planning an autumn tour of African countries.
“I can’t do it now because of the war. I planned it before the war, and I am sure that I will do it after the war.”