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Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa backs Putin over Ukraine invasion

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, pose for a photo on the sideline of the Russia Africa Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, July 27, 2023. (Mikhail Metzel/TASS Host Photo Agency Pool Photo via AP)
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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa openly declared his support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking on the sidelines of the two-day Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum in St Petersburg, Mnangagwa became the second African leader to openly side with Russia.

“Zimbabwe is in solidarity with the Russian Federation in your country’s special military operation in Ukraine,” he said.

While most African countries took a middle-of-the-road approach, mostly by abstaining from United Nations resolutions on the matter, only Eritrea voted in support of the invasion.

For political analyst Alexander Rusero, the statement was not clearly thought out.

“The implications are a contradiction to his effort on re-engagement and appeasement of the West. They are also not thought out against the realities of a state that wants to be taken seriously on sanctions claims.

“Russia is a strong patron but nowhere near as in a position to bail out a country undergoing a veritable economic meltdown as Zimbabwe,” he said.

Mnangagwa arrived in Russia upbeat that he would sign numerous trade deals with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

He was also gifted a presidential helicopter.

During his acceptance speech in front of the helicopter, Mnangagwa said: “The victims of sanctions must cooperate.”

Putin announced that Zimbabwe was one of the first African countries to receive grain from Russia, free of charge.

He said 50 000 tons were on its way to Harare.

UN chief casts doubts on Russia’s promise of free grain for African countries

Since the turn of the century, due to human rights violations, and disregard for the rule of law and property rights, the Robert Mugabe regime was placed under economic and trade sanctions.

Most of the sanctions remain in place, but Mnangagwa has on numerous occasions vowed to re-engage with the international community, despite failing to honour set targets.

Helicopter

Putin also offered a helicopter to the embattled Zimbabwean president, the country’s government announced on Thursday, as the Russian leader seeks the support of African leaders meeting in St Petersburg.

“His Excellency President Putin offered a presidential helicopter to His Excellency President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa”, wrote the Zimbabwean Ministry of Information on social networks.

It published photos of Mr Mnangagwa descending the steps of the aircraft and sitting in the cabin in front of a table set with glasses of white wine and a bowl of fruit.

“This bird will soon be in our skies”, added government spokesman Nick Mangwana on Twitter, renamed X.

Zimbabwe’s leaders have been targeted by American and European sanctions for corruption and human rights violations.

Mr Mnangagwa, 80, who is seeking re-election in what analysts predict will be a close election next month, has long blamed the sanctions for his country’s economic woes.

“The victims of sanctions must cooperate”, said Mr Mnangagwa, standing in front of the helicopter, in a video published by his Ministry of Information.

On Thursday, Mr Putin named Zimbabwe as one of six African countries that will receive free grain from Russia, after the Kremlin withdrew from the agreement allowing Ukrainian grain exports to transit through the Black Sea.