Russia rained missiles down on Kyiv hours after African leaders arrived for a peacekeeping mission on June 16.
Explosions were heard across the city as Ukraine’s air-defence leapt into action. Six hypersonic Kinzahl missiles, six Kalibr cruise missiles and two drones were shot down. No damage was done to the capital, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko. However, several houses in Kyiv Oblast were destroyed and there are reportedly casualties.
President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa and Senegal President Macky Sall head the delegation alongside Egypt's prime minister, Mostafa Madbouly, and representatives from Uganda and Republic of Congo (ROC). Ramaphosa confirmed separate peace missions with Ukraine and Russia last month in an attempt to “initiate a peace process” and “confidence buildings measures” between the two countries.
“[The mission] is going well and according to plan,” Ramaphosa said after the attack. They will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 17.
The leaders were greeted by Ukraine's Special Envoy for Africa and the Middle East Ambassador Maksym Subkh and South African Ambassador to Ukraine Andre Groenewald. They visited Bucha, where the first known massacre of Ukrainian civilians took place during February-March 2022.
“Putin 'builds confidence' by launching the largest missile attack on Kyiv in weeks, exactly amid the visit of African leaders to our capital. Russian missiles are a message to Africa: Russia wants more war, not peace,” Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba tweeted in response to the strikes.
A proposal seen by Reuters on June 15, notes a list of potential peace measures. It includes the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine and tactical nuclear weapons from Belarus, the suspension of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the relief of sanctions targeting Russia.
The African leaders may also propose an “unconditional grain and fertiliser deal”. The continent has been hard hit by the food crisis caused by the invasion, despite efforts from Ukraine and its allies to continue the export of Ukrainian agricultural products under the Black Sea grain initiative.
Additionally, while Russia's food and fertiliser exports are not under sanctions, the restrictions imposed by the West on payments, logistics and insurance have created barriers to shipments. Moscow has threatened to pull out of the grain deal, saying the West failed to fulfil its promises of facilitating the export of Russian agricultural goods to global markets.
President Putin has expressed his willingness to discuss the future of the grain deal with African leaders and highlighted Russia's readiness to supply grain to the world's poorest countries free of charge. Putin said that very little grain currently reaches African countries, despite Russia's previous agreements to extend the deal.
The African countries have remained largely neutral on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Moscow has close ties with the continent. Many Ukrainians have expressed distrust of the delegation, with one Twitter user noting her mother called them “Putin’s negotiators”.
Ukraine recently launched a foreign policy initiative to greatly increase ties with Africa and intends to open a raft of new embassies this year on the continent in an effort to boost trade, find new markets and counter Russia’s influence. Kyiv is also in discussions with several countries including Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal about opening up agricultural hubs to ensure food stability.