Senegalese President Macky Sall, current chairman of the African Union, is traveling to Russia on Thursday for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Friday, his office said in a statement.
This visit "is part of the efforts made by the Presidency-in-Office of the Union to contribute to calming down the war in Ukraine, and to freeing up stocks of cereals and fertilizers, the blockage of which particularly affects the African countries,” they said.
The visit takes place at the invitation of Mr. Putin, they add. Mr. Sall will be accompanied by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat.
"In the same spirit, the African Union has accepted President Volodymyr Zelensky's request to send a message to the organization by videoconference, the date and terms of which will be mutually agreed," they say.
In a message sent on Tuesday to the leaders of the European countries meeting in Brussels, the Senegalese president had asked to do everything “to release the stocks of cereals available” in Ukraine but blocked because of the Russian offensive which is organizing a blockade in the Black Sea and prohibits access to the port of Odessa.
He had mentioned “the catastrophic scenario of shortages and generalized price increases”.
He pointed out that the current crisis followed that of Covid-19 and that the latter had already aggravated hunger in Africa. "The worst may be ahead of us," he said.
He recalled that many African countries, including his own, are heavily dependent on grain imports from the region. He was also worried about the consequences of European sanctions excluding Russian banks from the international Swift system, a secure messaging platform allowing crucial operations such as fund transfer orders.
Senegal, which has strong relations with Western countries, surprised on March 2 by abstaining from a UN General Assembly vote in favor of a resolution which demanded "that Russia immediately stop using to force against Ukraine".
On the other hand, Senegal had voted on March 24 a second resolution requiring Russia to immediately end the war.
Almost half of African countries abstained or did not vote in both votes.
Mr. Sall explained during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Dakar at the end of May that the conflict “affects” Africans, but is taking place “on another continent”. He had, however, said "to condemn the invasion", more explicitly than in the past.