Amidst a global food crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that food-related exports from both his country and war-torn Ukraine are guaranteed. As reported by EuroNews, last Friday the Russian leader made the promise to the chairman of the African Union, whose members have been hit the hardest.
After having met with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the head of the Union, Macky Sall (also President of Senegal), took to Twitter. There he said that Russia is ready to “facilitate Ukrainian wheat exports” and to “ensure the export of its wheat and fertilisers,” while he called “on all partners to lift sanctions targeting” these products:
Earlier, Sall had told Putin that he had come to see him “to ask you to be aware that our countries, even far from the theatre (of war), are the victims of this economic crisis.” The UN’s crisis coordinator Amin Awad had also warned that “failure to open those ports will result in famine, destabilisation and mass migration around the world,” leaving over 1.4 billion people affected.
The agreement is therefore not only literally life-saving for the African continent (which already grappled with shortages before the war); it will subsequently ease migratory pressures on the European one as well.
Whether Putin had made the agreement a conditional one, Sall did not mention. In an interview on the Rossiya 1 TV channel on Friday, Putin declared that Ukraine could export grain from its ports [those which remain under its control], including Odessa, once it had cleared them of their mines. “Let them remove the mines, we guarantee them free passage to international waters,” he added. After 100 days of fighting, Russian forces occupy the bulk of Ukraine’s southern coastline, while warships control access to the country’s Black Sea ports.
He also made a point of saying that Russia, unlike what European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has claimed, does not obstruct grain exports from Ukraine as a form of blackmail. As an alternative to export by sea, the Russian leader mentioned using the Danube River to let grain pass through Romania, Hungary, and Poland. The simplest way however is through Belarus, he added, but that this would mean that sanctions on that country (a close ally of Russia’s) would need to be lifted.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said he is willing to allow Ukraine’s grain to be moved over his territory to ports at the Baltic Sea. He however stipulated that he wants Belarusian goods to be exported from there in return.
On the West’s stepping up of sanctions on his own country, Putin said this will only exacerbate the situation and that below-capacity harvests ensure prices will go up. “It’s an absolutely short-sighted, erroneous, I would say, simply a stupid policy which leads into a dead end,” the Russian leader added.
Russia and Ukraine’s combined wheat output adds up to nearly a third of the global supply. Furthermore, Russia is a key global fertiliser exporter, while Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.