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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the U.S. Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Dec. 21.MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that Kyiv would increase its footprint in Africa next year by opening 10 new embassies and strengthening trade ties with the continent.

Ukraine has been trying to rally African countries to its cause as it fights off Russia’s full-scale invasion, in part by promoting a humanitarian grain initiative to help alleviate hunger in highly vulnerable countries.

Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian agricultural exports through the Black Sea had sparked global grain and fertilizer shortages earlier this year, endangering millions, before a UN-brokered deal partially eased it in July.

“We are overhauling relations with dozens of African countries,” Mr. Zelensky told a gathering of diplomats in Kyiv. “Next year we need to strengthen this.”

Besides opening the new embassies, Mr. Zelensky said, Ukraine would also aim to set up trade representative offices in several key hubs on the continent – which he described as a region “where our interests are so far represented less than we need”.

He did not specify in which countries those new embassies or trade offices would be located, but added that he would like Ukraine to eventually be represented in 30 countries on the continent.