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Russia-Africa summit opens amid concerns over suspended grain deal

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking during the opening plenary session

The suspension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative dominated the second Russia-Summit that opened Thursday at St Petersburg.

In a keynote address, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the move that has sparked outcry across Africa.

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“None of the terms of the deal regarding the withdrawal from the sanctions of Russian exports of grain and fertilizers to world markets was fulfilled…..Obstacles were also raised for the gratuitous transfer of mineral fertilizers by us to the poorest countries in need,” he added.

Putin further hit out at the West whom he accused of hypocracy.

“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,” he said.

He however announced that his country will provide free grain to six African countries in the next three to four months.

“In the coming months we will be able to ensure free supplies of 25,000 to 50,000 tonnes of grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea,” Putin said.

“ We will also provide free delivery of this product to consumers,” he told several Africa heads of state attending the two day Economic and Humanitarian Forum economic forum bringing together over 8000 participants.

At the same time, he lamented that over 70pc of grain exported by Ukraine had ended up in high- and upper-middle-income countries, including in the European Union.

“Such countries as Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and some other countries received less than 3% of the supplies, i.e. less than one million tonnes,” he emphasized.

Russia last week refused to extend a deal under which Ukrainian grain exports passed through the Black Sea to reach global markets, including Africa, easing pressure on food prices.

African leaders who have voiced their concerns have called on Russia to release grain supplies from Ukraine.

Speaking in the same meeting, The African Union Chairperson Azali Assoumani said millions of lives depend on the grain from Ukraine adding that resolution of the Russia-Ukraine crisis will save lives.

African Union Chairperson Azali Assoumani

“The problem of grains and fertilizers concerns everyone,” he said adding that they were in talks with Putin in efforts to restart the agreement.

Russia’s trade turnover with the African countries has reached $18 billion, with trade in agricultural products growing by 60pc.

“I have no doubt that by working together we will be able to increase our trade substantially in the near future. Incidentally, in the first six months of 2023 alone, our export-import transactions with African countries increased by over one third” the Russian leader said.

Reporting by Margaret Kalekye

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