JOHANESSBURG - President Robert Mugabe is set to join his counterpart, Russian President Vladmir Putin, in celebrating Russia’s annual victory celebrations day.
Russia commemorates the end of World War II in Europe tomorrow.
Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba said the veteran leader had been invited to attend the celebrations in his capacity as the African Union chair.
“My president and your president (Jacob Zuma) have been invited to attend the celebrations and president Mugabe is attending in his capacity as the AU chair,” said Charamba.
Charamba, however, refused to say when Mugabe would be travelling, citing security concerns.
“It’s a security issue and I can’t tell you when he is leaving. All I can tell you is that he is fine and ready to travel,” Charamba said.
The South African presidency confirmed in a statement that Zuma was set to attend the event, adding that the visit would “further cement the strong and warm relations between South Africa and the Russian Federation which are expressed through co-operation in political, economic, social, defence and security areas”.
Mugabe — who has been criticised by his opponents over his endless foreign trips that allegedly cost millions of dollars — was set to leave the country yesterday.
The report said some European leaders were staying away from the commemorations, protesting Putin’s military adventures in Ukraine. China and India were set to attend.
The United States and the European Union imposed tough sanctions on Russia last year over its role in the Ukraine conflict.
The EU leaders agreed in March that the economic sanctions on Russia would stay in place until a peace deal in Ukraine was fully implemented.
Mugabe last year voiced his support for Russia, describing the Western sanctions against Moscow as “illegal”.
Russia’s Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was in Zimbabwe in September on a high profile visit during which Russia announced plans to build a $3bn platinum mine in the southern African country.
Lavrov, at the time, hailed Mugabe as an “African legend and historic figure”.
Mugabe’s trip was likely to follow up on the platinum project and other promises that Russia made.
Despised by the West, Mugabe has been looking to China and Russia for investment and much-needed financial assistance to help pull Zimbabwe out of its economic problems, the report said.