African leaders are leaving two days of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin with little to show for their requests to resume a deal that kept grain flowing from Ukraine and to find a way of ending the war there.
In a press conference late Saturday following the Russia-Africa summit, Putin said Russia’s termination of the grain deal earlier this month caused a rise in grain prices that benefits Russian companies.
He added that Moscow would share some of those revenues with the “poorest nations”.
That commitment, with no details, follows Putin’s promise to start shipping 25,000 to 50,000 tons of grain for free to each of six African nations in the next three to four months – an amount dwarfed by the 725,000 tons shipped by the UN World Food Programme to several hungry countries, African and otherwise, under the grain deal.
Fewer than 20 of Africa’s 54 heads of state or government attended the Russia summit, while 43 attended the previous gathering in 2019, reflecting concerns over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine even as Moscow seeks more allies on the African continent of 1.3 billion people.
Calls to resume grain deal
Putin praised Africa as a rising centre of power in the world, while the Kremlin blamed “outrageous” Western pressure for discouraging some African countries from showing up.
The presidents of Egypt and South Africa were among the most outspoken on the need to resume the grain deal.
“We would like the Black Sea initiative to be implemented and that the Black Sea should be open,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said. “We are not here to plead for donations for the African continent.”
In Saturday’s press conference, Putin said that Russia did not reject talks on Ukraine and that an African peace initiative, as well as a Chinese one, could be a basis for peace.
He also said that it was hard to implement a ceasefire when the Ukrainian army was on the offensive.
The next significant step in peace efforts appears to be a Ukrainian-organised peace summit hosted by Saudi Arabia in August, to which Russia is not invited.
Delegations at the summit in St. Petersburg roamed exhibits of weapons, a reminder of Russia’s role as the African continent’s top arms supplier.
Putin in his remarks on Saturday also downplayed his absence from the BRICS economic summit in South Africa next month amid a controversy over an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court.
Putin said his presence there was no more important than his presence “here, in Russia”.
In March, Putin wrote off the debts of African countries worth more than $20 billion.
Today, Putin said Russia will provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic, and Eritrea with 25-50,000 tons of free grain, with free delivery. pic.twitter.com/Mrm7M98AvR
— sarah (@sahouraxo) July 27, 2023