- Ukraine regards courting the global south as a top priority
- Russia established relations with the region during the war
- Ukraine sees its plan as the only path to peace
- Kyiv resists yet other peace plans spread
KIEV (Reuters) – A top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Kiev peace plan was the only way to end Russia’s war in Ukraine and that the time for mediation was over.
Senior diplomatic adviser Ihor Zovkva told Reuters that Ukraine has no interest in a cease-fire that locks up Russia’s territorial gains, and wants to implement its peace plan, which provides for the complete withdrawal of Russian forces.
He has rolled back a series of peace overtures from China, Brazil, the Vatican and South Africa in recent months.
“There can be no Brazilian peace plan, Chinese peace plan or South African peace plan when you talk about the war in Ukraine,” Zovkva said in an interview late Friday.
Zelensky made a major push to align the Global South this month in response to peace moves from some of its members. He attended an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19 and held talks with host Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Iraq and other delegations.
He then traveled to Japan, where he met the leaders of India and Indonesia – important voices in the Global South – on the sidelines of the G7 summit of major economic powers in Hiroshima.
While Kiev has strong support from the West in its struggle against the Kremlin, it has not had the same support from the Global South – a term for Latin America, Africa and most of Asia – where Russia has invested diplomatic energy for years.
Moscow strengthened its ties with the powers of the Global South during the war in Ukraine, including selling more of its energy to India and China.
In response to a Western embargo on seaborne Russian oil imports, Russia is redirecting supplies away from its traditional European markets to Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in Nairobi on Monday hoping to seal a trade agreement with Kenya, has traveled frequently to Africa during the war and St Petersburg is set to host a Russia-Africa summit this summer.
In a sign of the way Ukraine is trying to challenge Russia’s diplomatic influence, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba embarked on his second wartime tour of Africa last week.
Ukraine’s Zovkva said winning support in the global south was a top priority. He said that while Ukraine focused on relations with Western partners at the start of the invasion, securing peace was a concern of all countries.
He played down the possibilities of calls for dialogue with Russia launched by Pope Francis, who described the occupied Ukrainian lands as a “political problem”.
“In this period of open war, we don’t need any mediators. It is too late for mediation,” he said.
Zovkva said the reaction to Ukraine’s 10-point peace plan was very positive at the G7 summit.
“No single (point) formula has any (G7) concerns,” Zovkva said.
He said Kiev wanted G7 leaders to help bring as many southern leaders as possible to Kiev’s proposed “peace summit” this summer, adding that the location was still under discussion.
Russia said it was open to peace talks with Kiev, which stalled a few months after the invasion. But it insists that any talks be based on “new realities”, namely its declared annexation of five Ukrainian provinces it controls in whole or in part – a condition Kiev will not accept.
China, the world’s second largest economy and Ukraine’s largest trading partner before the war, has promoted a 12-point vision of peace that calls for a cease-fire but does not condemn the invasion or obligate Russia to withdraw from occupied territories.
Beijing, which has close ties to the Russian leadership, sent its senior envoy Li Hui to Kiev and Moscow this month to encourage peace talks.
Zovkva said the envoy was briefed in detail on the situation on the battlefield, at the Zaporizhia nuclear plant, the power grid, and the transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia, which Kiev says is a Russian war crime.
“He listened very intently. There was no immediate response… We’ll see. China is a wise country that understands its role in international affairs.”
Reporting by Max Hunder. Editing by Tom Palmforth and John Boyle
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
“Travel specialist. Typical social media scholar. Friend of animals everywhere. Freelance zombie ninja. Twitter buff.”