Putin promises free grain for 6 African countries
The pledge at the Russia-Africa summit comes after Moscow pulled out of a grain deal that had allowed the transport of millions of tons of Ukrainian food exports through the Black Sea
Russian President Vladimir Putin told African leaders in St Petersburg on Thursday that Russia would send up to 50,000 tons of grain for free to six African countries.
"In the coming months, we will be able to ensure free supplies of 25,000 to 50,000 tons of grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea," he said in a speech opening the Russia-Africa summit.
"I have already said that our country can replace Ukrainian grain, both on a commercial basis and as grant aid to the neediest African
countries, more so since we expect another record harvest this year," he added.
The announcement comes after Russia last week halted a deal that allowed Ukrainian grain to move from Black Sea ports to countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Both Russia and Ukraine are important global suppliers of barley, wheat, corn, sunflower oil and other food products that many developing countries rely on.
The export of these supplies was interrupted after Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year, sending food prices soaring and sparking concerns about food security and global hunger.
The now-collapsed Black Sea grain deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey in mid-2022, allowed nearly 33 million tons of Ukrainian grain to be exported despite the war.
Putin says Russia ready to replace Ukrainian grain
Putin told the summit that Russia was expecting a record grain harvest this year and was ready to replace Ukrainian grain exports to Africa.
He also responded to Western criticism of Russia's decision to quit the grain deal, saying that most of the grain that had been exported under the agreement had gone to high-income or above-average income countries, including states in the EU.
Putin also blamed Western sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine for preventing Russia from providing free fertilizers to poor countries.
"A paradoxical picture is emerging. On the one hand, Western countries are obstructing supplies of our grain and fertilisers (via sanctions), while on the other they hypocritically blame us for the current crisis situation on the world food market," said Putin.
What else will the Russia-Africa summit cover?
Besides food security, the summit is also expected to focus on expanding trade.
Putin said in his speech that Moscow was ready to work with African leaders on developing their finances and using regional currencies for trade payments. He added that Russia was keen to deepen its ties to the continent and radically increase trade.
The summit program also includes panel discussions on topics ranging from security and nuclear energy to artificial intelligence and sport.
According to the Kremlin, representatives from 49 of the 54 African countries are attending the gathering. Seventeen of those delegates are heads of state or government.