Putin says African proposals could be basis for Ukraine peace

Moscow airport closes temporarily after drone attack Russia blamed on Kyiv

President Vladimir Putin talks to journalists after the Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg on Friday. AFP
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has said proposals for put forward by African nations and China could serve as the basis for peace in the Ukraine war.

Mr Putin said he was not opposed to peace talks as Moscow came under attack from drones overnight, forcing one of the city’s airports to close.

A 10-point African Peace Initiative was presented to Russia last month though details have not been made public.

They reportedly said to include a Russian troop pull-back, removal of Russian tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, suspension of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Mr Putin and sanctions relief.

Speaking at the conclusion of the Africa-Russia Forum in St Petersburg, Putin said: “The initiative, in my opinion, can be the basis of some processes aimed at the search for peace, the same as others, such as for example, the Chinese initiative.”

Beijing had previously put forward a 12-point peace initiative which called for a ceasefire but did not condemn the invasion or require Russia to withdraw from areas of Ukraine it has occupied.

Putin said that one of the points in the initiative was a ceasefire, adding: "But the Ukrainian army is on the offensive, they are attacking, they are implementing a large-scale strategic offensive operation. We cannot cease fire when we are under attack."

On the question of starting peace talks, he said: "We did not reject them. In order for this process to begin, there needs to be agreement on both sides."

Meanwhile, drones damaged two office tower buildings in Moscow and triggered the temporary closure of one of the city’s airports, the Russian Defence Ministry said, accusing Ukraine of the attacks.

Former senior British intelligence officer Phillip Ingram said that, while the African and Chinese deals were “very different”, Mr Putin's comments were “very significant”.

They were the “green shoots” of “indications he’s not in a good position”, Mr Ingram told Sky News.

The TASS state news agency reported that the capital's Vnukovo airport was "closed for departures and arrivals, flights are redirected to other airports" but reopened within less than an hour.

Two drones were downed by electronic jamming, while a third was shot down, the ministry said.

Moscow lies about 500km from the Ukrainian border, and had rarely been targeted during the war in Ukraine until several drone attacks this year.

Fewer than 20 of Africa’s 54 heads of state or government attended the summit in St Petersburg, compared to 43 who attended the previous gathering in 2019, reflecting concerns over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This year, African leaders' requests to resume a deal that kept grain flowing from Ukraine appear to have been rejected by Russia.

Earlier this month, Russia said it would end the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal intended to provide safe export routes for about 20 per cent of the world’s grain.

The presidents of Egypt and South Africa were among the most outspoken on the need to resume the grain deal.

“We would like the Black Sea initiative to be implemented and that the Black Sea should be open,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

“We are not here to plead for donations for the African continent.”

Updated: July 30, 2023, 10:37 AM