Putin pledges free grain to African leaders despite sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday assured African leaders that he would provide them with tens of thousands of tons of grain as a gift, despite facing Western sanctions that have complicated Moscow’s ability to export grain and fertilizers.

Addressing African leaders at the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, Putin announced Russia’s readiness to step in and replace Ukrainian grain exports to Africa, offering both commercial and aid support.

President emphasized Russia’s commitment to playing a vital role in ensuring global food security amid ongoing tensions and sanctions affecting grain exports.

“We will be ready to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea with 25-50,000 tonnes of free grain each in the next three to four months,” Putin told the summit.

During the summit, Putin revealed that Russia exported 60 million tonnes of grain last year, with wheat accounting for 48 million tonnes.

The United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres, referred to Putin’s promised grain as “a handful of donations.”

Putin mentioned several African countries that already have close ties with Moscow at the summit, but he did not include others in need, such as Sudan and Chad, in his list.

Amid its involvement in Ukraine and a recent failed mutiny at home, Russia is intensifying efforts to gain influence and business in Africa, holding its second Africa summit since 2019.

Wagner PMC, despite facing internal challenges, remains active on the continent.

In response to Western criticism over its withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal, Putin reiterated that a parallel memorandum, promising to facilitate Russian grain and fertiliser exports, had been overlooked by the international community.

Comoros President Azali Assoumani, who currently chairs the African Union, expressed support for Russia’s grievances, as reported by the Russian state news agency RIA.

“I shouldn’t say that Russia is right or wrong. It acted for its own reasons; now we need to hear them in order to try to move forward.”

The termination of the deal and Russia’s actions in targeting Danube river ports, which served as a crucial export route for Ukraine, have led to a 10% surge in global wheat prices over the last 10 days.

Putin revealed that more than 70% of the Ukrainian grain exported under the now-defunct deal had been shipped to nations with above-average income levels.

Putin also criticized the distribution of Ukrainian grain exports under the collapsed deal, stating that the poorest nations, like Sudan, received less than 3% of the shipments while countries with above-average income benefited more.

Russian president expressed his frustration with Western sanctions, which he argued had hindered Russia’s ability to provide free fertilizers to poorer nations, citing Russia’s involvement in what it refers to as a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“On the one hand, Western countries are obstructing supplies of our grain and fertilisers, while on the other they hypocritically blame us for the current crisis situation on the world food market,” said Putin.

According to Russia, representatives from 49 out of Africa’s 54 states, including 17 heads of state and four heads of government, have attended the summit in St. Petersburg.

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