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Eastern Express 4.08

Russia is looking for support in various parts of the world. Africa, where Moscow has significantly increased its influence in recent years, is a perfect example. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently tried to convince African countries of Russia’s power and the need to support it on the international stage.

Mr Lavrov met with state officials and representatives of multilateral organizations including the Arab League and the African Union. The overall goal of the visit was clear: win the support of African partners at a time when the West announced a boycott of Russia because of its aggression against Ukraine.

The Russian minister visited Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Ethiopia during his tour around the African continent. As the region’s largest importer of wheat, most of it bought from Russia and Ukraine, Egypt has been hit hard by the food crisis. Rosatom began building a nuclear power plant there last month, and the country is also considering joining the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) alliance. On March 2, Congo and Uganda abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly’s resolution condemning Russian aggression. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government is leaning toward Russia as an alternative to its traditional alliance with Western countries.

It is part of the Russian narrative to blame Western sanctions and alleged Ukrainian mines in the Black Sea for the problems with Russian grain exports. It is worth noting that Lavrov went to Africa only after agreements were reached in Istanbul which paved the way for unblocking the Ukrainian grain exports. Without these agreements, the head of Russia’s diplomacy, responsible for the growing grain supply crisis, would have had nothing to look for in Africa it seems. In a speech in Cairo, Lavrov built on the Kremlin’s narrative that the West pushed Russia into invading Ukraine and accused the West of ignoring Moscow’s security concerns that stem from NATO’s eastward expansion.

An interesting piece was published by CNN during the trip made by the head of Russian diplomacy to Africa. According to the findings of a journalistic investigation, the Kremlin, in collusion with Sudan’s military junta, secretly exports gold mined in that country, with the scheme being overseen by none other than the infamous Wagner group. In exchange for gold, Russia is providing strong political and military support to the increasingly unpopular junta, which is violently suppressing democratic protests. Gold is not Moscow’s only interest in Sudan. The Russians are further seeking to establish a military base in the country on the Red Sea.

The Russian presence in Sudan is a reminder that Russia has been vying for access to African economies for years, taking advantage of the lack of a Western presence there, as well as the weakness and corruption of local authorities who want to prolong their rule.

Eastern Express’ guest

TVP World invited Jędrzej Czerep from the Polish Institute of Foreign Affairs to shed more light on the issue.

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