When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why Any Attempt At Ukraine Peace Is A Non-Starter Right Now

African leaders traveled to both Kyiv and Moscow to discuss a potential "peace plan" for the war in Ukraine. Predictably the envoys failed, and others will likely meet the same fate as Ukraine's counteroffensive kicks into gear and Putin keeps digging in.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa sitting next to each other.

Putin and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa meet in St Petersburg on Saturday

© Sergei Bobylev/TASS via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It was an attempt at mediation that had absolutely no chance of success. The four African presidents who traveled to Kyiv and then on to Moscow left without making any progress in bringing the two sides closer.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

The predictable failure can be attributed to two factors: first, ambiguities in the proposals and positioning of the mediators from South Africa, Senegal, Zambia and Comoros. And second, the meeting's timing — in the middle of the Ukrainian counteroffensive — wouldn't have allowed for any political movement while the balance of power remains unstable.

Ukraine had the most cautious reaction to the content of the proposals. An end to the fighting today would mean "freezing" the conflict in favor of Russia and its territorial gains, without any guarantee that possible future negotiations would restore the country's sovereignty.

One particular clause in the African plan was unacceptable to Ukrainian ears: the suspension of the indictment of Vladimir Putin before the International Criminal Court for war crimes. African heads of state visited the Ukrainian city of Bucha, site of a massacre of civilians in the early weeks of the Russian invasion, but apparently it did not move them enough to reverse that clause.

"Freezing" the conflict

If there is one positive outcome, it is that this it is the first time that African nations, collectively, have attempted mediation in a conflict in which they are not involved.

Non-alignment primarily benefits the aggressor.

That said, Africa bears the full brunt of consequences of the war, including food insecurity and increasing energy prices and interest rates. Africa had a legitimate claim to make its voice heard. It missed an opportunity due to the diversity of positions on the continent.

On one hand, Africans have good reasons to refuse, like other countries in the Global South, to automatically align themselves in a conflict outside the continent. But in this case, non-alignment primarily benefits the aggressor.

\u200bA Russian Army Central Military District serviceman in a mission.

A Russian Army Central Military District serviceman is seen during a combat mission, May 30, 2023, Russia.

© Stanislav Krasilnikov /TASS via ZUMA

No mediation 

Also on the positive side, the African initiative lays the groundwork for the day when negotiations will be possible. It also demonstrates the impatience of the rest of the world regarding the Ukrainian war, even though Africans would have benefited from expressing it more candidly — or more forcefully.

So, negotiations are not on the agenda at the moment. Neither Kyiv nor Moscow are currently inclined towards talks, especially in the midst of a decisive battle.

Ukraine has launched its counteroffensive and hopes to reverse the balance of power. Volodymyr Zelensky is not willing to negotiate before demonstrating on the ground that Ukraine can push back against Russia.

Putin shares a similar reasoning: he believes that his army can withstand the Ukrainian assault, even if they are armed with Western weapons. He hopes to hold onto his territorial gains, including the connection between Donbas and Crimea, and wants to maintain control over the Sea of Azov.

Therefore, it will be weapons that will determine the timing of any potential negotiations, and the balance of power. It is still too early to assess the outcome of the Ukrainian offensive, despite recent announcements of liberated villages or the spectacular destruction of a Russian weapons depot in the Kherson region. No mediation is possible in this context— and certainly not the imperfect one offered by African states.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


When A Library Is Born On A Tiny Italian Island

Inside an old watchtower dangling over the crashing waves of the port of Capraia, dwell 6,000 books and their keeper: 33-year-old Viola, a librarian who took the time during the COVID-19 pandemic to ask herself, "What makes you truly happy?"

A photograph of a book about the importance of reading, held up against the tower of Capraia's library

In front of the library of Capraia, a woman hold up a book about the importance of reading

Biblioteca Isola Di Capraia/Facebook
Federico Taddia

CAPRAIA — "The waves crashing loudly against the cliffs, the bad weather that prevents the ferry from arriving for days, the strong northeast wind making its presence felt... And then a handful of men and women, each with a kettle and their own cup of tea brought from home, protected inside the tower, reading a novel together: this, for me, is the library; this, for me, is building a community - building an identity - starting from books."

It almost seems as if, off in the distance, one can glimpse the Corsairs sailing on their galleys. Meanwhile, with the passionate gaze of someone who loves their land and the enthusiasm of someone who adores their job — actually, of someone who has realized their dream — Viola Viteritti, the librarian of Capraia, explains how the tower, built by the Genoese in 1540 to defend against pirates, is now home of what the Center for the Book and Reading has dubbed the most extraordinary library in Italy.

"I've spent four months a year on this island since I was born," she explains. "It's my home; it's the place where I feel good, where I am myself. As a child, I devoured books, but on the island, there was no place for books. When I chose to move here permanently, the library project started simultaneously. There couldn't have been a better cosmic alignment."

Keep reading...Show less

The latest