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Ukraine to boost diplomacy in Africa, other regions

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 21, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday that Kyiv would intensify diplomatic efforts in Africa, Latin America and Asia to take advantage of “colossal economic potential” and other international benefits.

African countries have had varying responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as some countries like South Africa have close trade and security ties with Russia they do not want to jeopardise.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskiy said diplomats would focus on countries where Ukraine has lesser influence, particularly in the Global South.

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“There is colossal economic potential and considerable diplomatic avenues,” he said.

He singled out votes in support of Ukraine from developing countries at the United Nations General Assembly as it fights off Russia’s 10-month-old invasion.

Ukraine also seeks to develop ties with its traditional partners “to make next year the decisive one in this war so that Ukraine attains its goals.”

In earlier comments to diplomats, Zelenskiy singled out attempts to expand ties with Africa. Ukraine has been trying to rally African countries to its cause by promoting a humanitarian grain initiative to alleviate famine in vulnerable countries.

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Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian agricultural exports through the Black Sea sparked global grain and fertiliser shortages this year, endangering millions before a U.N.-brokered deal partially eased it in July.

“We are overhauling relations with dozens of African countries,” Zelenskiy told the diplomats. “Next year we need to strengthen this.”

Zelenskiy said Ukraine also wants to set up trade representative offices in several hubs on the continent.

He did not specify where those new embassies or trade offices would be located, but added that he would like Ukraine to eventually be represented in 30 countries on the continent.

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