Speaking at an economic forum in Vladivostok on Wednesday, Putin accused the West of colonialism and suggested that Russia could discuss with Turkey the revision of the agreement which lifted the Russian blockade on Ukrainian ports and allowed ships to pass safely.
“With the exclusion of Turkey as a mediator, virtually all the grain exported from Ukraine was sent to (European Union) nations instead of poorer countries,” Putin said.
“It is obvious that with an approach like this, the scale of the food problem in the world will continue to grow, and this could lead to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe,” he added. “Perhaps it is worth considering restricting exports of grain and other products on this route? I will certainly discuss the matter with the President of Turkey.
Russia has raised this allegation before, but this is the first time Putin has echoed it.
The Russian president said that out of 87 ships loaded with grain from Ukraine, only two carried grain for the United Nations World Food Programme, or 60,000 tons out of a total of about 2 million tons.
A single Ukrainian ship has arrived in sub-Saharan Africa, docked at the port of Djibouti last week with grain that the WFP said would go to drought-stricken Somalia and Ethiopia. That first ship was carrying 23,000 tons of grain, which the WFP called enough to feed 1.5 million people with full rations for a month.
Somalia is particularly in need of help. The country sourced 90% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia before this year. It now suffers from a shortage of food and humanitarian aid as thousands die and the world focuses largely on Ukraine.
Ukraine’s president, in a tweet on Tuesday evening, said 28,600 tonnes of wheat will arrive in Somalia in the coming weeks and blamed the coming famine there on Russia’s actions this year.
“Ukraine continues to save the world with its grain,” Zelenskyy said.
African nations were at the center of Western efforts to reopen Ukrainian ports as the United States and its allies accused Russia of starving the world by denying exports from Ukraine, one of the largest grain exporters in the world. world. African leaders have also traveled to Russia to meet Putin on the issue.
But now Russia is trying to turn the food security issue against the West. “They deceived the public and partners in Africa and other regions that urgently need food,” Putin said. “They claimed they were acting in the interest of developing countries, but acting entirely in their own interest.”
The Joint Coordination Center, run by the UN, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, in its latest update on Tuesday evening, said 96 outgoing ships have been activated so far, carrying more than 2, 2 million metric tons.
Commercial ships have gone far beyond Europe to Egypt, Iran, Israel, Libya, India, South Korea and China, carrying a range of foodstuffs including wheat, corn for animal feed, sunflower meal, soybeans, sunflower oil and sunflower seeds.
Turkey is a popular destination as it is a major miller of wheat.
Food security experts said many of the shipments were deliveries on existing contracts that were made before Russia’s actions.
One of five commercial vessels allowed to leave Ukraine on Wednesday is bound for Kenya with 51,400 metric tonnes of wheat, the JCC said, adding that the destinations “may change depending on commercial activity”. The destinations of the other four ships are Spain and Turkey.
Isachenkov reported from Moscow. Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed.