South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday called on Ukraine and Russia to de-escalate their conflict, as he arrived in the war-torn country on a mission to broker peace.
“This war must be settled and there should be peace through negotiations,” he told reporters after talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Ramaphosa was among a group of African leaders and officials from seven countries visiting Kyiv as part of a mission aimed at brokering peace between Russia and Ukraine.
The leaders first visited the town of Bucha near Kyiv, the scene of an alleged massacre while occupied by Russia.
Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine after they arrived on Friday morning and the air force said it had downed 12 Russian missiles.
Ramaphosa’s spokesman told journalists in Kyiv that the president went down to a shelter during the air raid.
“Today as we were here, we heard of missile strikes and those types of hostilities are not good for fostering peace,” Ramaphosa told journalists.
“We argue that there must be de-escalation on both sides.”
The African delegation also included Senegal’s Macky Sall and Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema as well as Comoros’ Azali Assoumani, who heads the African Union.
Ramaphosa said Zelensky gave them “a very honest and heartfelt account” of what was happening in Ukraine.
Zelensky said on social media that he and the African leaders discussed ways to “achieve a true and just peace without any Russian blackmail and deception”.
“Ukraine and the world do not need either frozen conflicts or simmering wars,” he said.
“Peace is needed.”
The visit came as Ukraine has announced gains in its counteroffensive, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Ukrainian forces “stand no chance.”
Putin is set to meet with the delegation of the African leaders on Saturday.
“In our view it is important to listen very carefully to what both countries have to say and tomorrow we are now going to listen to President Putin,” the South African president said.
“We will then be able, together, the seven countries, to come up with a summary and what we are really heartened with is, there is a willingness for further engagement with us.”
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