President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia pledged on Thursday to ship free grain to not less than six African international locations over the subsequent 4 months, scrambling to shore up Moscow’s picture on the continent within the wake of the Kremlin’s refusal to increase a deal that had protected Ukrainian grain exports that assist feed thousands and thousands of individuals world wide.
Mr. Putin, talking at a summit for African international locations in St. Petersburg that drew far fewer African leaders than its 2019 iteration, insisted in a keynote speech that Western hypocrisy somewhat than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was responsible for disruptions within the international meals provide.
“Nothing occurred of what was mentioned and promised to us,” Mr. Putin stated, repeating his assertion that the West had failed to meet its finish of the grain deal and had executed nothing to clear the way in which for Russian meals and fertilizer exports.
He added that these casting Russia as an unreliable meals provider had been “telling lies,” which he stated had “been the follow of some Western states for many years, if not centuries.”
Russia’s exit from the grain deal last week drew a worldwide outcry, placing Mr. Putin on the defensive amid his long-running effort to attract African international locations to Russia’s aspect in its geopolitical battle with the US. The pomp of the summit on Thursday within the storied metropolis St. Petersburg — the Russian imperial capital constructed by Peter the Nice, and likewise Mr. Putin’s hometown — appeared meant to sign to African leaders that Russia was their true buddy.
Mr. Putin stated that Russia would ship 25,000 to 50,000 tons of free grain every to Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Mali, Somalia and Zimbabwe within the subsequent three to 4 months.
“We can even present for the free supply of the merchandise to the customers,” he stated.
Regardless of Mr. Putin’s occupation of charity, there seemed to be a geopolitical undertone to the checklist of recipients of free Russian grain. Of the six, solely Somalia voted towards Russia on the United Nations in February in supporting a resolution that referred to as for an finish to the battle in Ukraine. In Mali and the Central African Republic, Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has propped up authoritarian governments.
The Kremlin additionally sought to painting Russia as a non secular ally of Africa — as a bastion of conservative values, in distinction to a godless West.