Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a session of the Russia-Africa summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, July 27, 2023. Sputnik/Pavel Bednyakov/Pool via REUTERS

July 28 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin told African leaders on Friday Moscow respected their peace proposal on Ukraine and was carefully studying it.

Putin also told a Russia-Africa summit that Russia was increasing food supplies to Africa, including some free grain shipments which he announced a day earlier, and was interested in developing military cooperation with the continent.

African leaders presented their peace initiative last month to both Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy but it has failed to gain traction with either side.

Putin initially greeted it by reciting a list of Russian grievances against Ukraine and the West, while Zelenskiy has rejected the idea of a ceasefire that would leave Russia in control of nearly a fifth of Ukraine and give Russian forces time to regroup.

On day two of the summit, Putin said Russia was prepared to supply some weapons to Africa for free to enhance security on the continent, and to work more closely with African law enforcement and intelligence services.

He said it was increasing agricultural exports and would remain a reliable supplier of food. Moscow had written off $23 billion of debt, he said, without saying over what time period or naming the countries involved.

(Reporting by Reuters; writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)