Russia is pushing a plan to supply grain to Africa and cut Ukraine out of the global market after Moscow’s withdrawal from a UN-backed deal, according to three people familiar with the matter, notes ‘Financial Times’.
Kyiv and its western backers are also likely to be deeply suspicious of Russia’s offer, which would effectively secure Moscow’s naval blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which are a vital economic lifeline for the country.
Russia first floated the idea of supplying grain to Africa last year, the people familiar with the matter said, after it briefly pulled out of the Black Sea deal before rejoining a few days later.
Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto does not hide the fact that 95 percent of Ukrainian wheat was exported not to Africa, but beyond its borders. Africa did not receive this wheat. This wheat was going to other places. Inevitably, world prices are rising, and the consequence is that Africa is finding it increasingly difficult to buy grain.
Under new Russian offer, according to a draft memorandum seen by the Financial Times, Russia was to send up to 1 mn tonnes of grain to Turkey “on a preferential basis”. Qatar would foot the bill entirely and the grain would be supplied to Turkey to be shipped onwards to Africa.
A Ukrainian diplomat involved in the grain talks said they had seen a “trilateral MOU [memorandum of understanding] between Turkey, Russia and Qatar”, adding that they had “made some effort to stop it”.
Others involved in the grain deal talks said they expected Russia to push its proposal at a summit with African leaders in St Petersburg.
Moscow has publicly framed the idea as an offer of free grain for the poorest countries ahead of the Russia-Africa summit. It has used the grain issue as a wedge to rally sympathy for its position on Ukraine in the global south and create a groundswell of sentiment against western sanctions.
Putin complained that western countries were blocking Moscow’s attempts to send free fertiliser to Africa. On grain, he said: “Our country is capable of replacing Ukrainian grain on a commercial and a gratuitous basis,” adding that “continuing the grain deal in its current form had lost all sense”.
Other African leaders are coming under US pressure to ‘condemn’ Russia on the grain issue and not to travel to St Petersburg, according to African officials. This creates a bind for some as they often need Russian and US assistance on economic and security issues.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Vershinin said on Friday that Moscow “understands African countries’ concerns” about the grain deal collapse, according to state newswire Tass. He said Russia was “working on new routes for supplying grain.”
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