Russia Donates Fertilizer, Grain to Zimbabwe

Harare, Zimbabwe — Russia donated 25,000 tons of grain and 23,000 tons of fertilizer to Zimbabwe to help combat the effects of El Nino-induced drought, which has dwindled crop yields in most parts of Southern Africa. 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa accepted the donation Wednesday, saying it would help alleviate the drought Zimbabwe is coping with and the targeted sanctions which the government has long blamed for the country’s economic doldrums. 

“Zimbabwe and the Russian Federation continue to be subjected to the heinous and illegal sanctions imposed by the hegemonic powers of the West,” he said. “Throughout the 23 years of sanctions against Zimbabwe, the Russian Federation has been a true, trusted and dependable ally of the people of this country.” 

The president added that it should be no surprise that two countries who are the subject of sanctions talk to each other and try to work together. 

Western countries slapped travel and financial sanctions on Zimbabwe’s leadership and affiliated companies in the early 2000s for alleged election rigging and human rights abuses.  

The U.S. recently removed sanctions on most Zimbabweans, but a few prominent figures — including Mnangagwa — remain on the list. 

Meanwhile, Russia and its president Vladimir Putin were hit with sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago. 

On Wednesday, the Russian ambassador to Harare, Nikolai Krasilnikov, said the donated fertilizers would aid Zimbabwe’s agricultural production. 

“It is a commitment made by Russia to continue to support states and regions in need to do its utmost to prevent a global food crisis through participation in establishing a more equitable system for the distribution of resources,” Krasilnikov said. “And let us not forget that food security cannot [be achieved] without fertilizers, as they ensure growth, resilience and productivity of agricultural crops.”  

However, the fertilizers may not work in Zimbabwe’s current growing season, as most crops have been dried out by a lack of rain. 

In an interview, Alexander Rusero, an international relations professor at Africa University, said he was not surprised by Russia’s donations to Zimbabwe. 

“Zimbabwe does not have an ambivalent foreign policy with regards to Russia,” Rusero said. “Its position in terms of its interaction with Russia [is] very clear. Zimbabwe is on the side of Russia at whatever cost so it is not surprising. I wouldn’t know why it looks like a surprise that Zimbabwe has received some gift from Russia. And remember, these are fulfillments of pledges already made some time ago.” 

Zimbabwe’s electoral commission sent a mission to Moscow to observe the Russian elections this week in which Putin won another six-year term. At a press conference in Moscow, commission chair Priscilla Chigumba declared the elections to be credible. 

“We found the general atmosphere to be conducive for elections, the mood was relaxed and cheerful as people were exercising their right to vote,” Chigumba said. “It is our view that this is a clear sign of mature democracy in which elections are not perceived as life and death activity.”

The remarks drew wide criticism in Zimbabwe, given the way the electoral commission ran the country’s 2023 elections, which were plagued by irregularities and delays and were condemned by several observer missions, including from the Southern African Development Community.

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