African leader delivers 'message' from Putin to Zelensky
Umaro Mokhtar Sissoco Embalo, the president of Guinea-Bissau, claimed on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin asked him to convey a “message” to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky about the importance of “direct dialogue” between Moscow and Kiev. Embalo made this revelation at a joint press conference with Zelensky in Kiev, one day after his meeting with Putin.
“My dear brother, yesterday I was in Russia with President [Vladimir] Putin, who asked me to give you a message, to talk to you, considering that a direct dialogue is very important for our future joint actions,” Embalo said.
A video of the press conference was published on Zelensky’s Telegram channel, with Embalo’s remarks translated into Ukrainian.
The president of Guinea-Bissau also revealed that he saw himself as the “bearer of certain impulses” by contributing to the restoration of relations between Russia and Ukraine.
Before his meeting with Zelensky, Embalo told journalists that he found Putin “to be very open to negotiating with President Zelensky” and that he was looking forward “to conveying this goodwill” to the Ukrainian leader.
Zelensky, responding at the press conference to Embalo’s remarks, said that in order to build bridges between countries, “one should not blow up the infrastructure.” Zelensky was apparently referring to the strikes on Ukraine’s power stations launched by Russia on October 10 in what Moscow described as retaliation for Kiev’s “terrorist attack” on the Crimean Bridge. The Ukrainian leader also said that any conversation involves respect of one country for another one, starting from respecting “its territorial integrity, sovereignty, and borders.”
Earlier this month, Putin cited Ukraine’s refusal to talk as the reason behind the absence of negotiations between the two countries. He also noted that during Türkiye-mediated talks in late March, Russia and Ukraine reached a preliminary agreement, but as soon as Russian troops were pulled back from Kiev, “the leadership in Kiev lost all desire to have talks.”
Putin’s remarks came soon after Zelensky signed a decree forbidding any negotiations with him and declaring Ukraine will only talk to Russia when it has a different president. The Ukrainian leader has repeatedly stated that his only goal in the conflict is to defeat Russia on the battlefield and to retake control of all of the territories that Kiev believes to be under its sovereignty.