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Zelensky gets on the line to Addis

The delayed address by Ukraine's President to the AU Commission evens the score with Moscow but didn't trigger a breakthrough

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky got his audience with African leaders on 20 June, some four months after Moscow's invasion of his country.

Russia's blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports is preventing the country's grain exports from reaching global markets, intensifying a food shortage in African states, particularly North Africa.

'Africa is actually a hostage… of those who unleashed war against our state,' Zelensky said during a video link speech to the African Union.

In Brussels, meanwhile, following a meeting of European Union foreign ministers, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell described the Russian blockade as a war crime and 'a deliberate attempt to create hunger in the world'.

'This war may seem very distant to you and your countries. But the food prices that are catastrophically rising have already brought [the war] to the homes of millions of African families,' said Zelensky, before accusing Russia of waging a 'colonial' war that was also driving food shortages in Africa.

Despite attempts by the EU to create a united front with the AU on economic sanctions against Russia, the AU has studiously refused to take sides (AC Vol 63 No 12, Sall cuts deal on food crisis).

Top AU officials and its political chair, Senegal's President Macky Sall, stymied two previous attempts by Zelensky to speak to African leaders. 

But after Sall and AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat met with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Moscow earlier this month, AU officials seem to have calculated that they could give the Ukrainian president the floor without jeopardising their stated neutrality.

Mahamat maintained the AU's neutral stance, insisting on 'the urgent need for dialogue to end the conflict to allow peace to return to the region and to restore global stability.' 

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