US says African leaders should confront Putin on grain crisis

Ahead of a Russia-Africa meeting in Putin’s hometown of Saint Petersburg, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken asserted that African leaders were aware that the escalating food costs, grain, and fertilizer shortages were a direct consequence of Putin’s war in Ukraine.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is among the several African leaders expected to attend the summit at Konstantinovsky Palace.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated, “They know exactly who’s to blame for this current situation,” referring to the African leaders, some of whom have offered tacit support for Moscow or declined to denounce Putin’s invasion.

“My expectation would be that Russia will hear this clearly from our African partners,” said Blinken during his visit to New Zealand.

The grain crisis has escalated significantly since Russia’s withdrawal from a deal that enabled Ukraine to export 33 billion tonnes of wheat and other grains.

“It was the equivalent of exporting 18 billion loaves of bread through this one corridor that Russia has now shut down,” Blinken said.

“It wasn’t only pulling out. What have they done since they pulled out? They’ve repeatedly bombed the port of Odesa. They’ve laid mines in the Black Sea. They’ve explicitly threatened shipping. I think that sends a very clear message.”

Russia has asserted that the Turkish-brokered deal did not fulfill its promise of facilitating Russian exports.

In recent days, Moscow has made efforts to reassure its African partners, acknowledging their “concern” on the issue.

The Kremlin has confirmed that it is “without any doubt” prepared to export grain for free to African countries in need.

According to the latest monthly report from the US Department of Agriculture, wheat stocks at major exporters are presently at a 10-year low.

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