By Yahaya Isah
Abuja – Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his country’s readiness to strengthen military-technical and humanitarian cooperation and offer assistance to African countries.
Putin made this known in an interview with TASS, Russia’s leading news agency ahead of the forthcoming Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum scheduled to hold from Oct. 23 to Oct. 24, in the summer beach resort of Sochi, Russia.
The summit is meant to open a new chapter in relations between the Russian federation and African countries.
The Russian leader, however, warned African countries of the risk of economic confrontation between major powers over the continent.
He said that participating countries were expected to “bring to Sochi their ideas about ways to develop cooperation with Russia.
“We will also present to the heads of delegation at the summit areas we have highest comparative advantage and the volume of investment in African economies we expect to achieve, say in the next five years,“he said.
Putin, who noted that Russia and Africa had traditionally enjoyed good friendliness and time-tested relations, said that such relations had played a significant role in the liberation of the continent.
He further observed that Russia had also supported Africa in the struggle of its people against colonialism, racism, and apartheid.
“We went ahead to assist Africans to protect their independence and sovereignity, gain statehood from the basis for national economies, and create capable armed forces.
“Important infrastructure facilities, hydro-electric power plants, roads, and industrial plants were built by Russia.
“Thousands of Africans received quality education in Russia, which is well-remembered by many current African leaders who value our support.
“We too keep the memory of those pages of history.
“Today, the development and strengthening of mutually beneficial ties with African countries and their integration associations is one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities.
“We will shortly be witnessing an unprecedented benchmark event. Sochi will be hosting Russia-Africa, which will be the first full scale top level meeting to which we have invited leaders of African countries,“ he said.
The Russian president explained that although the idea of holding the summit emerged a long time ago, it however, took some time to make the summit a starting point for building partnership and relations based on equality and mutual practical interest.
“We expect that our African counterparts will come with a solid package of proposals aimed at enhancing bilateral relations.
“We also hope to strengthen relations with our African brothers.
“I am sure that this summit will be a success since the necessary requisite to make it a success are intact.
“Russia together with other (members of the) international community will surely render the necessary assistance to Africa,“ he said.