After cancelling a pact that allowed Ukrainian food shipments over the Black Sea, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday stated that Moscow is just weeks away from sending free grain to six African countries.
His remarks came during a press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, only hours after Russian military bombarded one of Ukraine’s important grain-exporting centres with a swarm of assault drones overnight.
Erdogan informed Putin that Turkey and the United Nations had drafted new suggestions to address Russia’s concerns about the agreement, and that he hoped to reach an acceptable solution “soon.”
However, Putin stressed that Russia would only return to the historic agreement if its conditions were honoured, and instead provided specifics on the plan for exports to Africa.
“We are close to completing agreements with six African states, where we intend to supply foodstuffs for free and even carry out delivery and logistics for free,” Putin said.
“Deliveries will begin in the next couple of weeks.”
The grain arrangement struck by the UN and Turkey, which meant to assure safe passage of civilian ships through the Black Sea, fell apart after Russia withdrew in July.
Since then, tensions in the region have risen, with Russia attacking Ukrainian export centres and Kyiv’s army targeting Moscow’s naval ports and vessels.