Russian President Vladimir Putin met with AU leaders on Friday and the Kremlin said he would tell them that Moscow was not to blame for the growing food crisis affecting the continent and parts of the rest of the world.
State television showed Putin greeting Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairperson of the AU, and Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the AU Commission, at the start of talks in the southern Russian resort of Sochi.
Russia’s army has seized much of Ukraine’s southern coastline during the course of its 100-day war, and its warships control access to the country’s Black Sea ports. But it continues to blame Ukraine and the West for the stoppage in Ukrainian grain exports.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said:
African countries are acutely affected by the growing crisis, which has sent the prices of grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser soaring.
Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of the globe’s wheat supplies, while Russia is also a key global fertiliser exporter, and Ukraine is a major exporter of maize and sunflower oil.
Moscow blames the situation on all the naval mines floating near the Ukrainian ports and on Western sanctions, which are hitting its own grain and fertiliser exports because of the impact on shipping, banking and insurance.
READ: News Analysis | Black sea grain battle could define Ukraine war
Russia has said it was ready to allow the vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine in return for the lifting of some sanctions, a proposal that Ukraine has described as blackmail.
In his opening comments at Friday’s meeting, Putin made no reference to the food crisis, but spoke in general terms of Moscow’s desire to develop ties with African countries, saying trade turnover had risen by more than 34% in the first few months of this year.
Meanwhile, Germany has strongly condemned Putin’s attempt to create a narrative that the West is responsible for causing famine in Africa, said a foreign affairs spokesperson.
“We have to stress that the fact that there is a risk of famine in parts of the world, that some countries are being cut off from grain exports, is a consequence of the Russian war of aggression and not of Western sanctions,” added the spokesperson at a regular government news conference on Friday. – Reuters