Russia to Kenya: Blame US and EU for high food, fuel prices

Kenya's Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau hosts Russia’s ambassador to Kenya Dmitry Maksimychev in Nairobi on March 12, 2022.

Photo credit: PHOTO / COURTESY

To many, including the UN Security Council, Russia “unjustly invaded” Ukraine, sparking the food and energy crises that are rocking the Kenyan and global economy.

Believable as it may sound, that is just one side of the story laced with “American propaganda”, according to Russia’s ambassador to Kenya Dmitry Maksimychev, who— like Moscow— maintains this is not an invasion but “a special operation”.

In this wide-ranging email interview with Nation.Africa, Maksimychev cites whom to blame for the high prices of fuel, cooking gas and wheat products.

  • How would you describe Kenya-Russia ties in the past and today? Has there been any change?

I think that our cooperation with Kenya is developing very dynamically. A boost to it was given in 2019 by the historic meeting of our two leaders Vladimir Putin and Uhuru Kenyatta in Sochi at the Russia-Africa Summit. Of course, some plans had to be changed because of the Covid pandemic, but now, we are back on track. According to Russian official statistics, in 2021, our bilateral trade grew by 12 percent to reach almost $400 million. Of course, as ambassador of Russia, I would prefer more rapid progress, but I am still optimistic because the trend is clear and positive.

What is important is that the trade has become more balanced. I mean, Russia now buys more Kenyan goods than previously. Kenyan exports to Russia grew by 60 percent in 2021!

We appreciate our cooperation with our Kenyan friends on international affairs. We maintain a vibrant and frank political dialogue, which is valuable given Kenya’s membership in the UN Security Council. On many international issues our positions are very close.

  • Based on Nairobi’s diplomatic ties with Moscow, were you disappointed that Kenya did not vote “No” to the US call for a UN General Assembly meeting to debate Russia invasion of Ukraine?

First, a correction. It is not an invasion. It is a limited special military operation with goals and objectives that have been clearly formulated right from the beginning – demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine, and the protection of four million Russian-speaking people of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, against whom the Kiev regime has been waging a genocidal war for eight years with heavy artillery and rockets. Of course, for eight long years Western-dominated media, including here in Kenya, never paid attention to the plight of those millions of people being slaughtered.

On the other hand, we are still trading with Ukraine. We use their pipelines to pump natural gas to Europe. And we pay them hard currency for the transit services. And Ukraine takes the money. And asks for more gas to pump and more money. Does an invasion look like that?

Now, on Kenya’s position. Kenya is a sovereign country that has every right to vote in accordance with its own reasons and circumstances. We respect that.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Photo credit: Alexey Nikolsky | Sputnik | AFP

We also understand that many countries are under a lot of outside pressure and sometimes they are forced to make very difficult choices. This is a fact of life.

Unlike US-led Western countries, we do not coerce UN member states to vote in our favour.

  • Later, in its statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kenya strongly condemned the Kremlin’s actions, warning that it was likely to rekindle dangerous expansions by “dead” empires. What is your reaction to that?

Again, it is not an invasion. I will not come back to it anymore.

I do not think that the allusion Ambassador Kimani made to the former British empire is accurate or in any way relevant to the Ukrainian situation. The Soviet Union was not a colonial empire but a free federation of states. When those states decided to separate, they did so in a peaceful and orderly manner.

Ukrainian servicemen walk next to destroyed Russian tanks

Ukrainian servicemen walk next to destroyed Russian tanks and armoured personnel carriers in west of Kyiv on April 2, 2022. 

Photo credit: Genya Savilov | AFP

The problem in Ukraine, who within the USSR became one of the richest and most industrially developed economies of Europe, is its tragic inability to find a raison d’etre and an ideology that would enable them to develop freely, happily and in harmony with its neighbours.

All they could think of as national identity was extreme nationalism and neo-Nazism embodied in the figures of WWII Nazi collaborators and convicted war criminals Bandera and Shukhevich, personally responsible for the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Jews, Poles, Belorussians, Ukrainians and Russians under Nazi occupation of the Soviet Union. This is what alienated millions of their own countrymen from the Kiev regime.

But Kiev still does not understand that they cannot build a stable and prosperous country by brute violence and oppression, terror and torture against their own people. It is tragic that the countless crimes committed by the Kiev regime over the last eight years have always been not only condoned but openly encouraged by their EU and US patrons who have been and still are using Ukraine as a pawn in their dirty geopolitical games against Russia. This makes them accomplices in these crimes.

And, by the way, did you know that Ukraine and the US are the only two countries in the world who year after year vote against a UN General Assembly resolution on combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance? They definitely must know something about themselves.

I am saying this not to argue with Ambassador Kimani, whom I respect deeply, and who is undoubtedly better versed in British colonial history than I am, but just to put you in context.

  • Kenya and other African states are experiencing acute shortages of wheat and petroleum products, among other essential commodities, because of Russia’ invasion of Ukraine. Do you regret your actions?

On food shortages, there are two things that you need to understand.

Russian paratroopers Ukraine

Russian paratroopers taking control of an undisclosed airfield in Ukraine, according to the Russian Defence Ministry. Ukraine on March 13, 2022 prepared for a "relentless defence" of Kyiv as the capital faced possible encirclement by advancing Russian forces

Photo credit: Russian Defence Ministry | AFP

First, the growth of food prices started several years ago as a result of the very irresponsible and, frankly, inadequate policies of the US, the EU and the like in response to an unfolding global financial and economic crisis they themselves provoked that was also exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Basically, what they did was printing money, borrowing, speculating, and printing money again. Inevitably, this led to inflation. There are certain economic laws that even the US and the EU cannot violate with impunity.

Second, they used the pretext of the Ukraine crisis to wage economic war on Russia, isolate us as one of the world’s largest producers of food and fertilisers from the markets by denying us access to financial and transport services. Of course, this leads to shrinking offers of food and fertilisers and soaring prices. It’s the economy…

Your question on regrets should be redirected to Brussels [EU headquarters], Washington, London, Ottawa, etc., who generated the food crisis.

My only regret is that the West’s inept economic policies and dirty geopolitical games jeopardise food security and development of Africa.

  • And why has Russia stopped wheat exports to regions that heavily depend on such supplies, including Kenya and the Horn of Africa in general?

To supply something to somewhere, you need access to money, to transport, insurance, etc. You also need access to the money your buyer is willing to pay to you. Without all this, trade is impossible. But because of illegal “sanctions” by the EU, US, UK and the like, we do not have access to all these services, we cannot use the SWIFT payment system, and we cannot use neither euros nor dollars. How can we trade? Ask Brussels, London, Washington, etc.

And, by the way, ask them, why don’t they sell you the wheat Africa needs? They are also big producers. And they make lots and lots of money on it.

CS Eugene Wamalwa with Russian ambassador Dmitry Maksimychev share a plate of fish during a working tour of Dunga beach in Kisumu on October 28, 2019.

Photo credit: File

We are trying to figure out other ways to trade, but we are not yet there.

  • Still on trade, how can Russia be considered a reliable partner in trade if they announce that gas and oil deliveries are to be paid in rubles, in spite of existing trade agreements that say otherwise?

By stealing our sovereign reserves and other assets, the EU, UK, US and the like have defaulted on their financial obligations to us. In spite of the existing agreements that say that thou shalt not steal. That is why we do not consider them reliable partners and do not want to use their currencies that they are going to steal from us through their financial system. Even if they pay. That is why we have told them (only unfriendly countries) that if they want our natural gas, they will have to pay in Russian rubles that they physically cannot steal. This makes them nervous for some reason.

Of course, these limitations do not apply to friendly countries who do not steal our money.

  • What is your message to hundreds of millions of Africans, including innocent students, who have suffered because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

To African students, I would say that we sympathise with your sufferings that were caused not by Russia but by the racist Kiev regime who exacerbated your plight by not allowing you to evacuate to Russia (the shortest and safest route from Sumy), and making you spend exorbitant amounts of money to travel a thousand kilometres to the Polish border and harassing and humiliating you along the way. And I would add that those who would like to continue their studies in Russia on government scholarships are welcome to apply to the Russian Embassy in Nairobi. We will see what we can do.

To the hundreds of millions of Africans, I would say that Russia is your true friend. We never colonised Africa, we never engaged in slave trade, we never exploited Africa economically. What we did was play a key role in the liberation of Africa from colonialism, and we helped African countries to build their free independent states. We are continuing the same glorious traditions of friendship and cooperation with Africa.

The problem is that the former colonial masters of Africa, slave traders and racists want to prevent us from cooperating with you. Think of it.

And don’t let yourself be fooled by the empire of lies that is Western propaganda and Western media. Be intellectually free and independent.

Next: Read Russia's take on Africans fighting in the war in Ukraine.