According to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is meeting with African Union officials, would assure them that Moscow is not to blame for the continent’s mounting food crisis.
Putin was seen on state television greeting AU Chairman Macky Sall and AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat at the opening of meetings in the southern Russian resort of Sochi on Friday.
During the country’s 100-day conflict, Russia’s army has taken much of Ukraine’s southern coastline, and its warships control access to the country’s Black Sea ports.
However, it continues to blame Ukraine and the West for the stop in Ukrainian grain exports.
“With a high degree of probability and confidence, I can assume that the president will give exhaustive explanations of his vision of the situation with Ukrainian grain,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“The president will tell our African friends the real state of affairs,” Peskov added. “He will explain once again what is happening there, who has mined the ports, what is needed for grain to go, that no one on the Russian side is blocking these ports.”
African countries are particularly hard hit by the escalating crisis, which has driven up the cost of grains, cooking oils, fuel, and fertilizer.
Russia and Ukraine account for about one-third of world wheat supply, with Russia being a significant global fertilizer producer and Ukraine a major maize and sunflower oil exporter.
Moscow has blamed the issue on all the naval mines floating near Ukrainian ports, as well as on Western sanctions, which are affecting its own grain and fertilizer shipments due to the impact on shipping, banking, and insurance.
Moreover, Russia has stated that it is willing to let ships carrying supplies to leave Ukraine in exchange for the relaxation of some sanctions, a proposal Ukraine has labeled “blackmail.”
Putin made no mention of the food crisis in his opening remarks at Friday’s summit, instead focusing on Moscow’s ambition to strengthen ties with Africa, claiming that trade turnover had increased by more than 34% in the first few months of this year.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES