Putin offers free grain to six African countries amid global food crisis

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Shipments to some of the poorest nations on the continent will be ready within months, the Russian president has said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that he will gift tens of thousands of tons of grain to six African countries within the next four months, despite Western sanctions that he said made it harder for Moscow to export its grain and fertilizers.

Putin made the pledge at the opening of the Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg on Thursday, where he met with 16 African heads of state and 10 prime ministers. He said that Russia would send between 25,000 and 50,000 tons of grain to Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen free of charge.

The gesture comes amid a worsening humanitarian crisis in East Africa, where millions of people are facing severe food insecurity due to drought, conflict and locust infestations.

Putin said that Russia was capable of replacing the Ukrainian grain that was supposed to be shipped to these countries under a deal that Moscow withdrew from earlier this week.

The deal, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, was signed in July 2022 and aimed to ensure safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports through the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters and a major source of food aid for many countries.

However, Russia pulled out of the deal on Monday, accusing the West of exploiting it for their own benefit and imposing sanctions that restricted Russia’s own agricultural trade. Putin claimed that most of the Ukrainian grain exported under the deal ended up in wealthy countries instead of those in need.

Putin defended his decision to exit the deal, saying that it had failed to serve its original humanitarian purpose and that Russia was ready to step in and provide grain aid to Africa. He also said that Russia would continue its efforts to supply other goods, such as fertilizers, to the continent.

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