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Zelensky rejects any proposal for a ‘frozen conflict’

Zelensky rejects any proposal for a ‘frozen conflict’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.Photo: EPA-EFE/Sergey Dolzhenko|South African president Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: EPA-EFE/Nic Bothma| Russian President Vladimir Putin.Photo: EPA-EFE/Vladimir Astapkovich / Kremlin

The Ukrainian President and the African Peace Mission appear to differ on the road to peace

President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking for the African Peace Mission to Ukraine, called for the de-escalation of fighting as the first step on the road to peace. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky retorted that complete Russian withdrawal from Ukraine was the only route to ending the war.

These sharply contrasting approaches emerged after Ramaphosa, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Comoran president Azali Assoumani and Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema met Zelensky in Kyiv on Friday, in a day full of controversy, frustration and some peril to the African leaders. 

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, and  Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso pulled out of the mission hours before its departure on Thursday.

In Kyiv on Friday warning sirens wailed and explosions sounded, forcing the African leaders and officials to duck into a hotel to use its bomb shelter during the day, Reuters reported.  Strangely, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya disputed the reports of the sirens and explosions, reportedly telling News24 that the African delegation saw and heard nothing. 

“There’s obviously some deliberate misinformation being spread here,” Magwenya was quoted as saying, seemingly suggesting that Western interests were deliberately trying to discredit Russia in the eyes of the African leaders. 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and other African Heads of State, that are participating in the African Leaders Peace Mission, hold a consultation while en route to Kyiv by train. Photo: GCIS

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Kyiv. Photo: GCIS

Yet later, when addressing the media after meeting Zelensky, Ramaphosa himself confirmed the attack and even used it to bolster his case,  saying that “the launch of missiles today does not deter us and has not stopped our call for de-escalation. It is precisely this sort of event that we witnessed today or even experienced that makes us call for de-escalation.

“There are offensives on both sides and we are saying there must be de-escalation as both countries proceed on the road to peace.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Peace mission commences – Ramaphosa and African leaders to meet Zelensky then Putin

In a tweet responding to the meeting with the African leaders, though, Zelensky presented a very different road to peace. “It’s obvious that the cessation of Russian terror and the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine’s entire territory is what can stop this war. 

“Ukraine and the whole world do NOT need either frozen conflicts or wars on a slow burner. Peace is needed. 

“Today we talked about the way to achieve a true and just peace without any Russian blackmail and deception…” he added. The complete rejection of a “frozen conflict” lies at the heart of the Ukrainian peace plan and also seemed to emerge as the key difference between Kyiv and the African peace mission. 

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba had last week explained to African journalists that Ukraine did not want a ceasefire and only then for consideration to be given to the substance of a peace deal. This, he suggested, would only freeze the conflict interminably.

Ukraine’s concern is that a ceasefire now would perpetually lock in the current position where Russia occupies large swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine.

Ramaphosa nonetheless emphasised that the African leaders had listened to Zelensky’s peace plan “with deep respect to the people of Ukraine” and on Saturday would also listen to Russian President Vladimir Putin “to see how he sees the road to peace.” The African leaders are scheduled to meet Putin in St Petersburg. 

He added that the African peace mission had also taken cognizance of a number of other peace proposals made by others. “All viewpoints must be put on the table” he said.  He also noted that the African leaders had pointed out to Zelensky that all respected the United Nations (UN) Charter as a key instrument for all countries and would also talk about the importance of the Charter in their discussions with Putin.

The UN Charter calls for all UN members to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states and has been frequently cited by Ukraine and by the UN General Assembly as an obligation which Russia flouted when it invaded Ukraine on February 24 last year.

Government buildings and tanks in Kyiv. Photo: GCIS

“We are not the first to have called for peace and articulated the need for respect for the sovereignty of countries,” Ramaphosa said.  

On this point, Zelensky tweeted that “All the nations deserve to live freely without imposing an alien will politically or by military means. But no one can feel that their borders are protected and the safety of their people is guaranteed while Russia is trying to make aggression of foreign lands a global norm.”

However, Ramaphosa also added, that another key element of any peace deal was that there should be security for all countries. 

“They should have a sense of security that their own sovereignty and standing is secured.” This seemed to be an implicit recognition of Russia’s claim that it felt its security had been threatened by the expansion of Nato up to Russia’s borders. 

It is not clear exactly what else the four presidents told Zelensky but Reuters had earlier reported that the African governments on the mission had written a draft framework agreement for attaining peace.

It specifies several “confidence building” measures that should be taken to help create an environment conducive for a ceasefire, allowing the belligerents to build trust and to prepare to formulate their peace strategies. These measures include a requirement for Russian troops to “withdraw to an agreed location to facilitate negotiations” and for Russia to remove its tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus. 

On the other side, the International Criminal Court (ICC) should suspend the warrant of arrest for Putin which it issued in March. And sanctions against Russia should also be lifted. 

Perhaps the main problem with the plan could be that it does not specify how far Russian troops should withdraw. And as Zelensky reiterated after Friday’s’ meeting, Ukraine has been adamant all along that Russia should withdraw entirely from Ukraine as a first step in any peace plan.

Earlier in the day the presidents and their delegation were taken to Bucha, the district just outside Kyiv where Ukraine discovered evidence of atrocities against many of their civilians after their forces liberated the area from Russia early in the war.

A guide described to them that they were at a mass grave where 116 civilians, including women and children, were buried. Most had been killed “without reasons.”

Their guide added that in the several villages of the Bucha district about 1,400 civilians had been killed and more than 9,000 war crimes had been committed, including torture and sexual crimes.  The guide told Ramaphosa that Ukraine was “surrounded by the neo-colonial ideology of Russia which tries to tell us all the time what to do and keep us under their control. And this led to their war of aggression. We Ukrainians are fighting for our independence.”

The peace mission has so far been fraught with incidental controversies, mainly the refusal of the Polish authorities to allow about 100 South African security officials and about a dozen journalists to get off their charter plane at Warsaw airport leaving them stranded for 26 hours until Friday afternoon. 

The Polish authorities also prevented the South African officials from  unloading about 12 containers of equipment from the aircraft, most of it weapons, sources said.

Read More on Daily Maverick: Mission impossible? SAA plane remains grounded following initial premature Polish clearance for take-off

Ramaphosa’s security chief Wally Rhode accused the Poles of trying to undermine the African peace mission and jeopardising Ramaphosa’s security as most of the detained security guards and weapons were apparently supposed to accompany him into Ukraine. 

Poland’s foreign ministry issued a statement justifying this by saying that “dangerous goods were on board the plane, which South African representatives did not have permission to bring in. In addition, there were persons on board the aircraft of whose presence the Polish side had not been notified beforehand.”

It added that the Polish government had made every possible effort to prepare Ramaphosa’s visit to Poland and that the South African government “had been informed of all formalities necessary for the delegation’s entry into Poland and the required transport permits.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Standoff at Warsaw airport after officials try to confiscate weapons from Ramaphosa’s Presidential Protection Unit

Police minister Bheki Cele told Newzroom Afrika that Ramaphosa’s security had not in fact been jeopardised and that his close security supported by Ukrainian security officials had been adequate to protect him in Ukraine. He said Rhode had withdrawn his statement. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Paul T says:

    What are these guys doing there? Wasting everyone’s time with mealy-mouthed words to confuse things to help the Russian narrative. Russia invaded Ukraine. They must leave or there is no peace. Nato exists to defend against lunatics like Putin, if Ukraine were a nember then Russia wouldnt even have set one foot in Ukraine.

    I don’t believe the majority of South Africans support thd govts stance. It must be that the ANC is in the hock to Russia, what a bunch of amoral fools they are lurching from one self-made crisis to another. Please be gone in 2024 and never come back.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Spot on! ANC are fools, do NOT vote for them.

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      In all fairness, the food insecurity resulting from the blocking of the Ukraine harvest from reaching the rest of the world is affecting Africa negatively. This is a valid reason for them to be doing this diplomatic visit – to try to secure food. I am not sure that they are going about it in the right way, and I am not convinced that the way they are going to achieve anything. But something needs to be done to lift the grain embargo. Clearly the African delegation has been speaking about it.

    • Ian Gwilt says:

      I am sorry but I think the majority of South Africans will believe what they are told.
      Whipped along with anti west and colonialist rhetoric.
      Most South Africans are not urban and do not read opinion pieces or read DM, News 24 or watch Sky News

  • Richard Bryant says:

    If the security around Ramaphosa was sufficient, what on earth was the role of the 100 security officials and 12 crates of weapons?

    Or were those crates another secret consignment for putin smuggled in under the guise of this diplomatic mission?

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Maybe the plan was to take them into Ukraine, out of Ukraine and into Russia but not out of Russia?

    • Irma Kerremans says:

      You hit the nail on the head!

      • Vanessa R says:

        This is unbelievably STUPID to be honest – but yes, thinking twice only logical explanation – 21 containers ammo & weaponery – for few days security for max 10-15 security guards to use in a country with the only aim of keeping you safe even if they are in war time attacked by your allies…how they even made to Poland is amazing 😀

  • Johann Olivier says:

    I’m really happy the Africans have sorted Africa. On to bigger & better conflicts. Wait …?

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Eyeblind,they there for another reason

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Zelensky is 100% right. Russia launched this illegal, brutal and unjustified war through its deranged mass-murdering and evil monster in Putin. The only way for a secure peace is for Russia to get the hell out of Ukraine and for the latter to join NATO for security in numbers. Anything less will freeze the conflict like South/North Korea, still officially at war and reward the obnoxious Putin for the land he has stolen. It will also give that diabolical and vile Putin time to recover, build up his forces and launch another war. You can bet on that! Cyril’s visit is nothing but a useless PR exercise in trying to make up for huge lost ground and status, and to show that SA is non-aligned BUT all our actions to date prove the contrary ie we are totally subservient to Putin and are everything but non- aligned. Cyril – rather stay in Russia – your useless, spineless and self- serving behaviour and conduct is no use to anybody and country!

  • Keith Clubb says:

    It’s been pretty obvious that the self-important, delusional and clearly incompetent South African contingent were never going to add value to any Ukrainian debate. No wonder the other four Presidents jumped ship. The only hope is that a real leader like President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia might bring some sanity to the proceedings.

  • Once again our government illustrates a total lack of understanding of politics and leadership. Bumbling fools, Ill prepared, lying and talking against each other. That idiot Vincent, lying about the attack versus Reuters statement. Ummmm who should I believe? And then the president contradicts him!! Doesn’t he speak to his spokesman? What a farce!!
    Zelenskyy must be laughing behind their backs. I love Zelenskyy. He will win this war.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    In truth, Rhode looked drunk when he made his ‘statement’, pointing incoherently at some airport workers in the distance, saying ‘look how racist they are’. Man, this guy, he’s in charge of the Presidential protection racket? Sorry, unit, I meant. What a loose canon. Containers filled with weapons and equipment? For what?? As for landing at the wrong airport… can this be true? What a ridiculous mission.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      The string of words defining this “mission” is extremely long.

      “Ridiculous, incoherent, racket, loose canon, for what, wrong airport, can this be true” …… And those definitive words were only in one comment!

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    Anybody who is familiar with WWI history will perhaps have noted the ‘frozen peace’ proposal parallels. They fell flat 100 plus years ago & will, for exactly the same reasons, fail now.
    The only side such proposals benefit is Russia (as in WWI were it benefited only Germany) Regardless of one’s ideological sympathies – these peace proposals were a non starter from the very beginning & blindingly obviously so.
    Indeed for the African Mission to even table such a proposal reflects an inherent bias in their sympathies & many countries will see this initiative not as a genuine ‘attempt to broker peace’ but as them being useful fools in the service of Putin.
    I recognize that many of our people believe we should not be dictated too & become the handmaidens of the United States – but all we are doing here is favoring one Colonial Master over another (& in fact in favour of one who offers nothing other than an old, threadbare ideological comfort blanket)

    • Susan Newton-King says:

      You are right! Favouring on colonial master over another. South Africans (speaking for my generation at least) are ill informed about Russian colonialism.

  • Peter Slingsby says:

    I feel sure those 12 crates were filled with that wonderful Proudly South African product: more fokol

  • Esskay Esskay says:

    Does it not occur to our geniuses, that because of being suspected of supplying arms to Russia, the Poles double and triple checked everything on that plane? They were sending a clear message – RSA is not to be trusted.

  • Jacqueline DERENS says:

    JY Ollivier , The man behind this mission ,is first and above all a business man. I doubt he cares much about the war , what he wants is “business as usual”.

    • David Coutts-Trotter says:

      Amazed that man still around and peddling his influence. Very dodgy.

    • Jennifer D says:

      Cyril is not a business man. He was awarded his business through black empowerment. If he had struggled to get his business going the way other business people all over the world have had to, he would running this country in a more effective way. His inability to make a call on anything at all and his continuous wavering and poor communication would never have allowed him success in business.

  • Ludovici DIVES says:

    What credibility does a delegation that advocates “non-alignment” in theory but quite blatantly practices obvious bias have ? Zero Cyril, that’s how much. This whole charade from start to finish was ill conceived and is going to back fire. ANC their own worst enemy.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    As usual a well disorganised trip,as most things the ANC does. Ramophosa makes South Africa look likes idiots. He should be able to understand that Ukraine are fighting a war where Russia invaded their country, and the only person/country he should be speaking to is Putin and telling him to cease and desist. Ukraine only wants Peace on the basis that Russia withdraws totally and that should be what Ramaphosa should understood. If he does not then he is living in cloud cukoo land

  • Ronald Lehman says:

    These African leaders on a peace mission ? They are there to do Putin’s bidding.
    The real joke is that most of the African countries they represent are no beacon of hope . Unfortunately they have this illusion of grandeur while their own people suffer.

  • Paul T says:

    Congrats ANC, you have officially graduated from being a local to an international embarrassment. I just wish you didn’t do it in SA’s name.

    • André Pelser says:

      Fortunately most international observers see this as an ANC government, serving is own perceived interests.
      South Africans area seen as victims of this deluded organisation, stuck in an ideological rut of its own making.

  • neill hurford says:

    Cyril Ramaphosa and his handlers are further making a mockery of South Africa’s status as a reasonable, responsible and reliable interlocutor in any international conflict. Their vested interests in the aggressor in the Ukrainian invasion will consistently have them arguing on the back foot to preserve whatever benefits they enjoy as friends of an obviously disruptive regime. This taints the dignity and subverts the beliefs of millions of South Africans whose dedication to peace and respect aligns with that of upstanding, honest and compassionate nations. We have been cast into darkness by those responsible for our wellbeing

  • Uma Kabanye says:

    There are currently 39 armed conflicts on our own continent (Geneva Research Academy). Why not address some of these for starters? Or was the lure of the big stage, the global spotlight, too heady to resist? There are dozens of very sophisticated career diplomats in the West who’ve shrunk from this job. Let’s just hope our team doesn’t confirm their stereotype of an African head of state.

  • Wendy C says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to successfully land 120 blue light waving, heavily armed presidential security personnel in Ukraine….
    Ok, forget Ukraine , St. Petersburg…
    Ok, forget St Petersburg…
    You of course know that in the event of failure, you can play your racist card….oh! The Russians too…
    And don’t worry to play the rest of the tape with the presidents vague and biased peace brokering rhetoric. We have realised that the mediator-ship of someone who, emphasising sovereignty and security to an audience violated by aggressors in their own wheat field, will be of little relevance… at this time, going forward with all stakeholders…Thankfully this tape will self destruct in ten seconds…
    Kindly submit your expense account to Treasury as soon as you land… in Sudan, for your next assignment.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    It is embarrassing to say the least! Didn’t they have clearance from Poland before leaving? Or maybe they had forgotten to mention the x number of crates and the extra x number of security officials😏
    IMO someone is suffering from complexes and wanted to show the whole world how they had managed to make peace between Ukraine and Russia, only they seem not to have prepared very well for the task🤣 They have made fools of themselves.

  • rmrobinson says:

    It is a sign of extreme disrespect on the part of these Africans to demand of President Zelensky that his country should accept a state of siege. “There should be security for all countries”, I mean, really. Has the man no shame or sense of irony? While in the Ukraine the visitors experienced bombing at the hands of the invading enemy. They will not experience that in St Petersburg. So, not only has Zelensky a war on his hands, he has to contend with a bunch of bumbling idiots from Africa who see fit to use the suffering of his country for their own little political games. Has Ramaphosa even condescended to express respect, grief, empathy, with those Ukranians murdered by the invaders?

    • Charl Marais says:

      A very relevant question, are the diplomats on this mission prepared to state how Ukrainian civilians are affected by the invasion? Hom many killed, maimed, driven from their homes, had their homes damaged or destroyed, had their livelihoods uprooted? To say nothing of those who are victims of other unspeakable crimes!

  • Karsten Döpke says:

    All I can say about Cyril and his “mission “ is…. What A Doos.

  • blingtofling says:

    I really wonder about the egocentric way our Government sway around the world, bringing their blessings of ignorance to the table. I understand the administrative difficulties to comply with requirements and protocols of other countries the government have – cadre deployment. Such documents are far too complicated for cadres to understand. For a corrupt Goverment who specialises in hiding stolen money, have no clue how to hide amunition. Their expertise is in money. Not objects. I am extremely surprised that our President was not ‘shocked’ and surprized by the human suffering and destruction as he usually are here in his own country right under his nose. I would love to see the damage to buildings, the numbers of people apart from soldiers who died because of Ukranian attacks on Russia. I hope common sense prevails with delegates when they put their plan for peace on the table. Even the attempt to show off their propaganda skills backfired because someone forgot to read the script and gave the whole game away. Please South African’s let our country be a beacon of light again. Where people from Europe come to South Africa because of our excellence in the medical field – and our experts now populate those countries.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    This apparently implies that, just like after the theft at Phala Phala, Wally Roode has again not been doing his job. Did he really think that another country will allow us to take a lot of weapons and stuff into that country without us notifying them? He keeps saying that the paperwork has been in order. This is not about paperwork, it is about communicating with the Polish (AND Ukranian AND Russian, and all other governments that they were supposed to enter) about what they would allow, and adapting their security arrangements to that. It really seems that he does not even understands this. What I am wondering is why the government still has this person in its’ employ; he obviously is not able to keep the President safe. Does SAPS really want to wait until something really bad happens to the President before they wake up?

  • bushboyvos says:

    Oh, please, just send the clowns back to their southern circus!

  • Derek Jones says:

    It seems the main purpose of this mission was to try save Agoa. To show to the US that because of this wonderful peacekeeping mission we are actually really non aligned??They I am sure can see right through that. His carefully worded speech to Putin was hopelessly devoid of fresh ideas, and actually favored Russia’s position rather than Ukraine’s’. Meantime South Africa drowns in incompetence, sewage endemic corruption and no prospects for good education or work opportunities for the young and poor. Salvage what is left of your presidency Ramaphosa, do something useful if you can or just please get out the way.

  • Barrie Lewis says:

    Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya has just done the ANC a great deal of harm. We now know not to believe one word he says; he’s a liar, plain and simple.
    If Ramaphosa fires him on his return, then we’ll again take the ANC’s utterances seriously again.
    By firing rockets into Kyiv during the African leaders’ visit, Putin was clearly giving them the middle finger. That message Magwenya read correctly, hence his diatribe.
    A sorry story from beginning to end; an ill wind that blew no one any good, and may yet blow the ANC a great deal of harm. No one will take them seriously again.

  • Danial Ronald Meyer says:

    Although the mission to Ukraine and Russia by the heads of state of four African countries, of which South Africa’s Ramaphosa was one, will be considered a futile exercise by some, many more Africans will view it for what it is – an effort, albeit modest, to broker peace.

  • Are you really surprised at our naivety – after all Russia just walked in and tried to do what Hitler did decades ago. Just as well Churchill and not Chamberlain prevailed.

  • David Crossley says:

    I listened to Putin’s reply to Ramaphosa and it was a litany of lies from a narcissistic psychopath.
    If you don’t believe me, read the book “Killer in the Kremlin” by John Sweeney.
    The content will both terrify you and tell you exactly what sort of animal Putin is.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Does Ramaphosa know the difference between an offensive and a defence. Russia the attacking force are the invaders, they are on the offensive, while Ukraine are defending their sovereign country. Maybe someone should explain this to him.

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