lavrov africa
© Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP
FILE PHOTO: In this handout photo released by the Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen Hassen attend a joint news conference after their talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 27, 2022
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Uganda on Tuesday as part of his Africa tour aimed at rallying support for the sanctions-hit country.

He was received at the Entebbe International Airport by his Ugandan counterpart Abubaker Jeje Odongo.

Lavrov earlier visited Egypt and the Republic of Congo. He will head to Ethiopia after a two-day stop in Uganda.

After a closed-door meeting with Lavrov, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni said in a joint news conference that Russia has been supporting the anti-colonial African movement for the last 100 years.

"Whenever issues come up and some people want to take positions against Russians, we say these people have been with us for over 100 years. We have even forgiven colonizers ... the people who made us slaves," Museveni said.

For his part, Lavrov highlighted various cooperation areas between the two countries, including agriculture and space technology.

He said the two countries agreed to set up a lab to help prevent infectious diseases.

"We appreciate the position of Uganda, to the situation in and around Ukraine, the pressure from beyond has not brought our friends to join the anti-Russian sanctions. Such an independent path deserves deep respect," Lavrov said.

He blamed the increasing food prices on the "illegal sanctions" imposed on Russia by Western countries in the wake of Moscow's war in Ukraine, now in its sixth month.

"In the sanctions by the West against Russia, they don't mention that wheat and fertilizers are blacklisted. They have stopped Russian ships from docking at certain ports, prevented banks from transacting businesses with us, how will the grain be transported and paid for," Lavrov added.

He said that he hopes the UN can succeed in facilitating the removal of impediments to Russian products in the global market as agreed upon in the agreement brokered by Türkiye.

On Friday, Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine signed a landmark deal to resume grain exports through the Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny after months of blockade due to the war.

Lavrov further said Russia was always open to negotiations with Ukraine, but western countries advised Ukraine against negotiating.

Uganda relies on wheat exports from Ukraine and Russia to supplement its local food sources.

Russia supplied 33% of Uganda's wheat in 2020, while Ukraine sent 17%, according to COMTRADE, a UN trade data collection agency.

Russia's war in Ukraine disrupted global supply chains causing a spike in wheat prices.

Deep-rooted Uganda-Russia relations

Uganda is among the 17 African countries that abstained from a UN vote to condemn Russia's war in Ukraine.

Although Uganda maintained neutrality, the powerful son of Uganda's president, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba suggested that Russia had valid "security" reasons to invade Ukraine.

"The majority of mankind (that are non-white) support Russia's stand in Ukraine. Putin is absolutely right! When the USSR parked nuclear armed missiles in Cuba in 1962 the West was ready to blow up the world over it. Now when NATO does the same, they expect Russia to do differently?" he tweeted.

Uganda's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem said the tweet was Kainerugaba's personal opinion and not the country's official stance.

Uganda established formal diplomatic relations with Russia more than 50 years ago.

Russian leader, Vladimir Putin and Uganda's Museveni have had a good decade of increasing communication and cooperation. Kremlin is a key supplier of Uganda's equipment, technology and knowledge transfer in the military sector.

Uganda has been trying to attract Russian private investors. Last year, Russia's Joint Stock Company Global Security was awarded a 10-year contract to install a digital monitoring system in all motorcycles and vehicles in Uganda.