Zelensky heads to Argentina for swearing-in of new president

Javier Milei is due to be sworn in (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)
Javier Milei is due to be sworn in (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was heading to Buenos Aires to witness the swearing-in on Sunday of Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei.

It is the Ukrainian leader’s first trip to Latin America as Kyiv continues to court support among developing nations for its 21-month-old fight against Russia’s invading forces.

A political outsider who has railed against what he calls entrenched official corruption in Argentina and promised to uproot the political establishment, Mr Milei ran on a pro-Western foreign policy platform, repeatedly expressing distrust of Moscow and Beijing.

On Sunday morning, Mr Milei was sworn in inside the National Congress building, and outgoing President Alberto Fernandez placed the presidential sash upon him. Some of the assembled politicians chanted “Liberty!”.

Mr Zelensky phoned Mr Milei shortly after the Argentinian’s electoral victory, thanking him for his “clear support for Ukraine” which he described in social media posts as “well-noticed and appreciated by Ukrainians”.

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Javier Milei has been sworn in (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

In its readout of the call published shortly afterwards, Mr Milei’s office said he had offered to host a summit between Ukraine and Latin American states, a potential boon to Kyiv’s months-long effort to strengthen its relationships with countries of the global south.

Mr Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials have repeatedly presented Ukraine’s war against Russia as resistance against colonial aggression, hoping to win support from Asian, African and Latin American states that in the past struggled to free themselves from foreign domination, sometimes turning to Moscow for support against Western powers.

According to Mr Zelensky’s official website, he broke his journey to Argentina to meet the prime minister of the West African country of Cape Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva, thanking him for his support for Kyiv’s diplomatic initiatives and discussing efforts to boost Ukrainian grain exports to Africa.

Mr Zelensky expressed his appreciation for Cape Verde’s backing of UN resolutions supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory before peace talks can begin.

The African country previously supported UN documents condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets Cape Verde’s Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

According to Mr Zelensky’s website, he and Mr Correia e Silva also discussed Kyiv’s efforts to expand a corridor for grain exports in the Black Sea that has seen over 7 million metric tons of Ukrainian produce shipped out since its inception, months after Moscow pulled out of a UN-brokered deal to facilitate shipments of Ukrainian and Russian food and fertiliser to countries in need.

In other developments, Russian shelling over the past 24 hours killed two elderly women and wounded two more civilians in Ukraine’s north-eastern Kharkiv region, local governor Oleh Syniehubov reported on Sunday morning.

In a Telegram update, Mr Syniehubov said that both women died in the same attack in the province’s east, parts of which run close to the front line and have seen intense fighting in recent weeks.

In the Kherson region in the south, Russian shelling on Saturday and overnight killed one civilian and wounded four others, governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram on Sunday.