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Putin rules out rejoining Black Sea grain deal, despite famine fears

Putin rules out rejoining Black Sea grain deal, despite famine fears

by host

Russia will not rejoin a U.N.-brokered pact designed to prevent famines across the developing world as a result of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

Speaking at the Russia-Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum in St. Petersburg, Putin again said his government would “refuse to extend” the Black Sea grain deal, which has allowed 32.9 million tons of agricultural products to leave Ukraine’s blockaded ports and reach the global market.

Putin, who accused Western nations of receiving the bulk of the deliveries and refusing to lift sanctions on Russia, insisted Moscow would instead move toward “a more just system of resource distribution.”

“In the coming three or four months we would be ready to provide to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea up to 50,000 tons of grain each. We will ensure free shipping of these cargo,” he went on.

Investigations have shown Russia has systematically stolen Ukrainian grain during its occupation of the south of the country and, following Moscow’s withdrawal from the deal, the country’s forces launched strikes against agricultural stores. Kyiv says as much as 60,000 tons of grain were destroyed.

The African Union earlier Thursday urged Moscow to reinstate the Black Sea grain deal, designed to ensure Ukrainian and Russian agricultural products can reach the global market, despite the raging war affecting Black Sea shipping routes, and avoid shortages.

“The problem of grains and fertilizers concerns everyone,” Comoros President Azali Assoumani, who heads the 55-member African Union, told Russian state media. “We will talk about this in St. Petersburg, we will discuss it with Putin to see how we can restart this agreement.”

Putin last week announced his country would unilaterally pull out of the arrangement and, shortly afterward, his forces launched strikes against Ukraine’s export infrastructure.

Analysts have previously warned that a continued refusal to renew the deal could mean African nations are dependent on one-off deals with Moscow to secure supplies, with price volatility and insecurity of supply as a result.

Billed as an effort to foster closer relations between Russia and the Global South, the summit has been overshadowed by strict security and COVID-19 testing requirements, and the Kremlin has complained that “pressure” from the the U.S. and EU countries has meant only 17 heads of state out of a total of more than 50 African countries confirmed they would attend.

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