Putin Promises Free Grain at Africa Summit, Aiming to Help Russia’s Image

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia pledged on Thursday to ship free grain to at least six African nations over the subsequent 4 months, scrambling to shore up Moscow’s picture on the continent within the wake of the Kremlin’s refusal to prolong a deal that had protected Ukrainian grain exports that assist feed hundreds of thousands of individuals around the globe.

Mr. Putin, talking at a summit for African nations in St. Petersburg that drew far fewer African leaders than its 2019 iteration, insisted in a keynote speech that Western hypocrisy slightly than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was to blame for disruptions within the international meals provide.

“Nothing happened of what was discussed and promised to us,” Mr. Putin mentioned, repeating his assertion that the West had failed to fulfill its finish of the grain deal and had carried out nothing to clear the way in which for Russian meals and fertilizer exports.

He added that these casting Russia as an unreliable meals provider have been “telling lies,” which he mentioned had “been the practice of some Western states for decades, if not centuries.”

Russia’s exit from the grain deal final week drew a worldwide outcry, placing Mr. Putin on the defensive amid his long-running effort to draw African nations to Russia’s aspect in its geopolitical battle with the United States. The pomp of the summit on Thursday within the storied metropolis St. Petersburg — the Russian imperial capital constructed by Peter the Great, and likewise Mr. Putin’s hometown — appeared supposed to sign to African leaders that Russia was their true good friend.

Mr. Putin mentioned 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 will also provide for the free delivery of the products to the consumers,” he mentioned.

Despite Mr. Putin’s occupation of charity, there appeared to be a geopolitical undertone to the record of recipients of free Russian grain. Of the six, solely Somalia voted in opposition to Russia at the United Nations in February in supporting a resolution that referred to as for an finish to the struggle 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 religious ally of Africa — as a bastion of conservative values, in distinction to a godless West. The summit was formally billed as not solely an financial discussion board, but additionally a “humanitarian” one, as Mr. Putin more and more deploys conservative rhetoric to win worldwide, and never simply home, help.

Patriarch Kirill I, the pinnacle of the Russian Orthodox Church, used Thursday’s session to castigate the West for selling “anti-values” resembling homosexual rights.

“Most African countries categorically reject the legalization on the legislative level of so-called same-sex unions, euthanasia and other sinful phenomena from a religious point of view,” the patriarch informed the African delegates, talking after Mr. Putin and President Azali Assoumani of the Comoros, the present African Union chairman.

“All of this, no doubt, brings our positions closer together,” Kirill mentioned.

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