From Mduduzi Mathuthu in MOSCOW, Russia
RUSSIA stands ready to thwart any Western aggression against Zimbabwe, President Vladimir Putin vowed in Moscow yesterday during a meeting with President Mugabe.In 2008, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution sponsored by Britain and the United States seeking to impose punitive sanctions on Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe, the incumbent chair of Sadc and the African Union, later told African diplomats posted to Moscow that he had no doubt the UN resolution, if it had passed, would have laid the ground for Britain and the US to effect “regime change” in Zimbabwe.
In an hour-long meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to deepening bilateral ties, with President Mugabe pressing for increased Russian investment in agriculture, mining, infrastructure development and the manufacturing industries.
President Putin invited the Zimbabwean leader to appoint a special envoy to steer trade agreements between the two countries.
He said he had instructed his Trade Minister Denis Manturov to receive the envoy and fully explore areas of potential co-operation.
President Mugabe, on his first visit to Russia since 1987, on Saturday witnessed Russia’s commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the conquest of Nazi Germany which were marked with a huge military parade in central Moscow.
The President, who arrived in Russia last Friday, yesterday met Putin before addressing African diplomats at a local hotel. He wound up his programme for the day by meeting Zimbabwean students studying in Russia.
But key for the President was the meeting with Putin, who last September launched his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Zimbabwe where he oversaw the signing of a US$4 billion joint venture platinum mining deal. President Mugabe will meet the Russian companies financing the huge development in Darwendale today.
Lavrov, who hailed President Mugabe as a “legend” and “historic figure” in Harare, was at yesterday’s meeting at the Kremlin.
A source who attended the talks said: “President Putin recognised President Mugabe as the chairman of the African Union and said the invitation was on the basis of that status and that Russia wanted to build on historical relations of the Soviet Union and Africa. Specifically, Russia wanted to deepen bilateral relations with Zimbabwe, after all Zimbabwe has been part of a network of Russia’s allies.”
President Mugabe, said the official, “thanked President Putin for the invitation and thanked Russia for celebrations marking the defeat of fascism while noting that the victory against fascism was a victory for all of us.”
President Mugabe is quoted as saying: “It’s our victory together as Africans also fought fascism, albeit under imperial countries. Those allies against fascism were themselves fascist occupiers on the African continent and therefore had to be fought. The Soviet Union was an ally in that fight.”
He noted that the disintegration of the Soviet Union had been met with glee in Washington, but Russia had remained “standing and opposed to America.”
Russia’s anti-imperialist stance, he observed, had invited sanctions from the United States, drawing parallels with Zimbabwe which is also under Western sanctions.
“You’ve sanctions, and we’ve sanctions too. That’s why we should remain united, and why we celebrate with you. We need your support,” the President is quoted as telling the Russian leader.
He thanked Russia and China for defending Zimbabwe in the Security Council, adding that “we’ll need the same stance much more in respect of events in Africa.”
He regretted the decision taken by the governments of South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria who used their votes in the Security Council to back a UN resolution for a no-fly zone over Libya which led to the invasion of Libya by Western forces and the eventual murder, in cold blood, of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
“We’ll need your support, especially your veto and that of China more as we move into the future and as we seek to reform the UN,” President Mugabe is said to have told Putin.
The Russian leader, who used Victory Day celebrations last Saturday to demonstrate Russia’s daunting military might, was unwavering in his support for Zimbabwe’s self-determination.
“In future, as in the past, we do have it in our power to support Africa and to support Zimbabwe, in particular, in the Security Council,” the Russian leader said. “Our Western friends are so used to giving orders like they’re still colonisers. We’ll handle that challenge coolly. Russia does not want conflict.”