African leaders meet Zelenskyy in Ukraine peace mission – with Putin next

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa is among a group of African leaders in Ukraine on a peace mission.

The presidents of Zambia, Senegal, Comoros, South Africa and Egypt’s prime minister are there, alongside senior officials from Uganda and Congo-Brazzaville.

They met President Zelenskyy and are expected to travel to St Petersburg in Russia later on Friday, before meeting President Putin on Saturday.

Missile attack on Kyiv is ‘message to Africa’ – Ukraine war latest

After meeting the delegation, Mr Zelenskyy reiterated that peace talks would only be possible when Russia pulls out of occupied areas.

Mr Ramaphosa said the leaders were “here to share the African perspective” as he called for a de-escalation on both sides and said the sovereignty of countries should be respected.

He also called for more prisoner swaps and said displaced children should be returned to their homes.

Earlier, the delegation placed candles at a mass grave near St Andrew’s Church in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Bucha is the site of one of the worst-known massacres of the war, with Russian troops killing hundreds of civilians there last year.

An air raid siren also rang out during the group’s visit to Kyiv and Mayor Vitali Klitschko said an explosion had been reported in the Podilskiy district.

“Russian missiles are a message to Africa: Russia wants more war, not peace,” tweeted Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba.

The Ukrainian air force said it downed six Russian Kalibr cruise missiles, six Kinzhal hypersonic ballistic missiles and two reconnaissance drones – but did not say where they were destroyed.

Peace is not the only matter on the agenda for the African leaders, however.

Officials also want to examine how Russia can be paid for fertiliser exports it desperately needs – despite sanctions against Moscow.

They are also looking at getting more vital grain shipments out of Ukraine.

Mr Ramaphosa said after his meeting with Mr Zelenskyy that there should be an opening up of logistics for both grain and fertiliser.

The delegation appear to have split allegiances, however.

South Africa, Senegal and Uganda have avoided criticising Moscow; while Zambia, Egypt and Comoros last year voted against Russia in a UN resolution condemning the invasion.

“Life is universal, and we must protect lives – Ukrainian lives, Russian lives, global lives,” said Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema.

“Instability anywhere is instability everywhere.”