Russia supports African countries' efforts to search for mechanisms of sustained development, combating poverty and integrating into the world economy. The statement to this effect was made by Sergei Kryukov, a section head of the Africa department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, who made an appearance at the opening of the conference "Russia and Madagascar: Dialogue of Cultures." According to Kryukov, Russia takes consistent steps to develop relations both with separate African countries and regional and sub-regional organisations of the continent. He expressed satisfaction with the level of contacts between leaders of Russia and African countries. Kryukov reminded that leaders of the four African states paid official visits to Moscow this year and quite recently Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov completed his official visit to Angola, Namibia and the South African Republic. Russia pays special attention to participation in settling intracontinental conflicts, the Russian diplomat stressed. He recalled that Russia is involved in all four UN missions in hot spots of Africa, i.e. Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, West Sahara and Ethiopia-Erithrea conflict zone. At the same time, in 2001 the Russian Federation continued to render targeted humanitarian aid to the population of Mozambique, Ethiopia, Erithrea and Angola. Along with other countries Russia agreed to write off the debt of the poorest African states in the amount of USD 26 billion at the G-8 summit in Genoa. Russia renders significant assistance to the "black continent" countries in training national personnel. Thus, according to Kryukov's data, over the past five years Moscow granted 3,500 state stipends for educating African students in Russian higher educational establishments.