Putin’s Protective Service dispatched to check for explosives underwater at the bridge
Vladimir Putin will be dealt a huge blow as several world leaders from a region Russia has been scrambling to exert influence over are avoiding a key summit.
A number of African leaders have snubbed the Russian president by refusing to attend an upcoming Russia-Africa summit.
The event starts tomorrow in St Petersburg and will see less than half of the 43 leaders who attended in 2019 join, with just 17 set to be present this time round.
Heads of state from some of the major powers on the continent, including Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have all declined to make an appearance.
The Kremlin has blamed this on the West, which has been heavily supporting Ukraine after his invasion.
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Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, said: “This is absolutely blatant, brazen interference by the United States, France and other states through their diplomatic missions in African countries and their attempts to put pressure on the leadership of these countries in order to prevent their active participation in the forum.”
It comes after crippling Western sanctions pushed Russia to explore opportunities in Africa to save its tanking economy.
Putin has targeted countries with fragile governments which tend to be rich in vital raw materials, including oil, gold and diamonds.
He also sent private security firms, such as the infamous Wagner Group, to prop up warlords by offering counterinsurgency and counterterrorism services in exchange for a country’s natural resources or substantial commercial contracts as payment.
And between 2015 and 2019, Moscow struck 19 military collaboration deals with African governments, primarily focusing on Russian weapons sales.
Putin also vowed to boost trade with Africa to $40billion a year back in 2019, but he has failed to stick to his promise.
Russia’s recent withdrawal from a grain deal, which allowed Ukraine to keep open its Black Sea ports in an agreement helping to keep global prices down, has appeared to strike a nerve.
Now, Moscow has been targeting key grain infrastructure in moves that sent prices soaring.
Kenya, whose president is avoiding the upcoming summit, slammed the move as “a stab in the back” for the Horn of Africa. The region has been grappling with a devastating drought as millions suffer from malnutrition.
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Russia’s potentially dwindling influence over the region could allow other powers, such as China, to take advantage.
Beijing has been capitalizing on the so-called debt trap African countries have been stuck in for years, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, from the Washington Institute think tank.
She told Africa News that “China offers loans for expensive infrastructure projects” on the continent and added that “when a country cannot repay its loan, China takes control of its strategic assets”.
China’s top diplomat Wang Yi visited Africa this week and met with Kenyan President William Ruto on Saturday.
The purpose is to boost strategic cooperation with relevant countries on trade, infrastructure and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to Chinese state media.
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