(Reuters) – Russia has withdrawn from the Black Sea Grains Agreement that guaranteed the safety of Ukrainian grain exports because the deal had lost its meaning, President Vladimir Putin wrote in an article published early on Monday.
“The pursuit of the ‘grain deal’ – which did not justify its humanitarian purpose – has lost its meaning,” Putin said, according to the article on the Kremlin website.
Stating Russia’s terms for the extension had been ignored, Moscow last week backed out of the deal that allowed Ukraine a year ago to export grain from its Black Sea ports, despite the war, to ease a global food crisis.
However, the main demands Putin made last week for Moscow to return to the deal did not directly refer to humanitarian purposes.
After reneging on the deal, Russia hammered Ukraine’s food export ports almost daily. An attack Sunday on the southern port of Odessa left one dead and dozens injured.
Writing ahead of the second Russia-Africa summit to be held in St. Petersburg on Thursday and Friday, Putin said Russia expects a record harvest this year.
“I want to assure that our country is able to replace Ukrainian grain both commercially and for free, especially as we expect a record harvest again this year,” Putin said.
Russia and the West are increasingly vying for influence in Africa. Although Moscow has so far invested very little in it, according to United Nations data, Russia has made diplomatic efforts to win support from the continent.
In a UN vote in March 2022 to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 28 African nations voted in favor of the resolution, but 25 voted to abstain or did not vote at all.
“Russia will continue to work vigorously to organize the supply of grain, food, fertilizer and more to Africa: we highly value and continue to dynamically develop the full range of economic ties with Africa,” Putin wrote.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)