Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Kenyan leaders on Monday on a surprise visit to Nairobi, as Moscow and Kyiv both seek to bolster support from African nations over the war in Ukraine.
“During our visit, we will discuss our cooperation in the trade, investment and economic spheres, humanitarian and cultural questions, education, cooperation in the UN and many other issues,” Lavrov told Kenyan lawmakers, according to the Russian foreign ministry.
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The trip was not announced in advance.
The Russian official has visited Africa several times in the past year, as global powers tussle for influence on the continent of 1.3 billion people.
Lavrov’s trip to Kenya comes on the heels of a trip to the continent last week by his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.
Foreign Minister Kuleba visited Ethiopia, Morocco and Rwanda, but also met with current African Union (AU) Chair and Comoros President Azali Assoumani as well as AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.
The Ukrainian official called for certain African nations to end their neutral stances over the 15-month-old war in Ukraine and announced a push by Kyiv to intensify its ties with the continent.
“We speak with our African friends, trying to explain to them that neutrality is not the answer,” Kuleba said at a press conference on Wednesday in Addis Ababa, home of the African Union.
He also announced in a statement the following day that Ukraine planned to open more embassies in Africa and stage a summit with the continent’s leaders.
Meanwhile, a Russia-Africa summit, the second in a series, is to be held in Saint Petersburg from July 26 to 29.
Russia has ties with African countries that can be traced to the Cold War, when the Soviet Union rendered support in the form of arms and funding to liberation movements on the continent.
In February, 22 of the AU’s 54 member states abstained or did not vote on a United Nations General Assembly resolution that called for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.
Two of them – Eritrea and Mali – even voted against the resolution.