Senegalese President Macky Sall, current chairman of the African Union, will travel to Russia on Thursday for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Friday, his office said in a statement.
This visit "is part of the efforts of the current chairmanship of the Union to contribute to the lull in the war in Ukraine, and the release of stocks of grain and fertilizer whose blockage particularly affects African countries," they said.
The visit takes place at the invitation of Mr. Putin, they added. Mr. Sall will be accompanied by the chairman of the African Union Commission, Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat.
"In the same spirit, the African Union has accepted the request of President Volodymyr Zelensky to address a message to the organization by video conference, the date and modalities of which will be mutually agreed upon," they said.
In a message addressed on Tuesday to the leaders of European countries meeting in Brussels, the Senegalese president had asked to do everything "to release the grain stocks available" in Ukraine but blocked because of the Russian offensive that organizes a blockade in the Black Sea and prohibits access to the port of Odessa.
He spoke of "the catastrophic scenario of shortages and generalized price increases.
He pointed out that the current crisis followed the Covid-19 crisis, which had already worsened hunger in Africa. "The worst may be ahead of us," he said.
He recalled that many African countries, including his own, are heavily dependent on grain imports from the region. He was also concerned about the consequences of European sanctions excluding Russian banks from the international Swift system, a secure messaging platform allowing crucial operations such as money transfer orders.
Senegal, which has strong relations with Western countries, surprised many by abstaining on March 2 in a UN General Assembly vote in favor of a resolution demanding "that Russia immediately cease the use of force against Ukraine.
Senegal, on the other hand, voted for a second resolution on March 24 demanding that Russia stop the war immediately.
Nearly half of the African countries abstained or did not vote in both votes.
Mr. Sall explained during a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Dakar at the end of May that the conflict "affects" Africans, but is taking place "on another continent. However, he said he "condemns the invasion" more explicitly than in the past.