POINTE NOIRE, CONGO —
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is on a first-ever visit to the Republic of Congo as part of a four-nation tour of Africa to seek support against Western pressure over its invasion of Ukraine and soaring food prices that threaten famine in parts of East Africa.
The Russian foreign minister met Monday with the Republic of Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso at his residence in Oyo, a town 400 kilometers north of the capital, Brazzaville.
The visit was the first by Russia's top diplomat to Congo and Lavrov's second stop in Africa, after Egypt, on a four-nation tour that includes Uganda and Ethiopia, where the African Union has its headquarters.
Lavrov's trip appears to be aimed in part at seeking allies, as Moscow is under intense Western pressure for its invasion of Ukraine.
Western nations blame Russia's war and its Black Sea blockade of Ukrainian grain for soaring global prices for food that are fueling risks of famine in the Horn of Africa.
Russia blames Western sanctions for the precarious food situation.
Like most of Africa, the oil-rich Republic of Congo has remained neutral in the conflict.
Ahead of his trip, Lavrov praised African nations for their independence and lashed out at Western nations that profited from Africa's past colonial rule.
Lavrov's visit to the former French colony comes as French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in the region for visits to Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau.
France has pulled back support from some former colonies as they have become less democratic, such as Mali, which is under military rule and accused by Paris of hiring Russian mercenaries. Both Moscow and Bamako deny deploying Russian mercenaries in Mali.
Nguesso has been in power in the Republic of Congo for most of the past 50 years.
On his Africa trip, Lavrov is also promoting the second Russia-Africa summit, which would be held in mid-2023, he announced Sunday in Egypt.
The U.S. plans to hold a summit with African leaders in December.