Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Congo Republic amid Africa tour
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Congo Republic on Monday, the second leg of an African tour aimed at strengthening Moscow's ties with a continent that has refused to join Western condemnation and sanctions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
African countries, which have a tangled legacy of relations with the West and the former Soviet Union, have largely avoided taking sides over the war in Ukraine.
Lavrov has already visited Egypt and will head from Congo to Uganda, then Ethiopia, where African Union diplomats said he had invited ambassadors from several member states to a private meeting on Wednesday, dismaying Western donors.
Speaking at a press conference, along with the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Congo Jean-Claude Gakosso, on Monday, Lavrov said there are no barriers to the export of grain from Ukrainian ports, emphasizing that the strike on Odesa port was aimed at military infrastructure there.
He added that there was nothing in the grain agreement signed by Russia to prevent it from continuing to attack military infrastructure in Ukraine.
"Speaking about the episode, which you mentioned that happened in Odesa, there is nothing in the commitments that Russia signed up to in Istanbul on July 22 that would prohibit us from continuing our special military operation, destroying (Ukrainian) military infrastructure and other military targets," Lavrov said.
"As far as the targets hit by high-precision strikes are concerned, they are located in a separate part of Odessa port, in the so-called military part of Odessa port. These targets were a Ukrainian Navy combat cutter and an ammunition depot, to which anti-ship Harpoon missiles were recently delivered. They were delivered to threaten the Russian Black Sea fleet," he added.
Since Moscow began its military operation in Ukraine on February 24, between 20 million and 25 million tons of grain have been blocked in Ukrainian ports.
The two warring countries, which jointly account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, signed a landmark deal on Friday with the United Nations and Turkey aimed at relieving a global food crisis triggered by blocked Black Sea grain deliveries due to the current war in Ukraine.
Russian forces launched a missile attack on Odessa, a port city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, destroying military infrastructure there. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed that the attack was carried out by “Kalibr missiles … with a high-precision strike.”
Odessa is one of the three export hubs designated in the agreement.
The missile attack infuriated Kiev, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemning it as “barbarism” and a “cynical” move, and alerted the UN and the West that it may derail the hardly-achieved grain agreement.
Earlier on Monday, the Kremlin brushed aside Western and Ukrainian alarm that the missile strike could derail the UN-brokered grain deal reached on Friday in Istanbul.