Putin is trying to flex his influence in Africa, but countries are giving him the cold shoulder

11 months ago 14
  • Putin is hosting a critical summit with African leaders this week in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • But only a handful of attending nations are sending their heads of state or leaders. 
  • Isolated by the war in Ukraine, Putin seeks to grow influence and support on the African continent.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin's upcoming meeting with African leaders is designed to be a diplomatic showcase and a bit of a flex — but it's looking like a miss on both counts. 

On Thursday, Putin will meet with 49 representatives from African nations at the second Russia-Africa summit. The event, hosted in St. Petersburg, is critical for an increasingly isolated Russia to maintain its ties and support on the African continent. 

But on Tuesday, Presidential advisor Yuri Ushakov said only 17 of the 49 attendees are sending their respective heads of state or leaders, including Egypt, South Africa, and Uganda, according to The Moscow Times. The remaining nations will send lower-level ambassadors or representatives. 

It's a striking difference from the first summit held in 2019, which was almost all attended by presidents and prime ministers. The same is true for the US-Africa summit late last year. 

The Kremlin is already preparing for disaster, blaming this year's low turnout on the West and, specifically, the US.

On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the US of subjecting "unprecedented pressure" on "virtually all African states," and blamed French embassies in Africa for "trying to do their bit to prevent this summit from taking place," according to Reuters

The summit setback is part of the wider fallout from Russia's struggling war against Ukraine. Russian leaders are attempting to reassure their partners in Africa after a failed rebellion in June mounted by the head of the Wagner Group, which is intertwined with Russian state interests in African states like Libya, Mali, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.

In the war-torn CAR, some of Wagner's forces stationed near diamond mines have left, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. Its troops had previously helped train CAR's army to prepare for possible coup attempts, according to the Council on Foreign Relations

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