In his opening speech at the second Russia-Africa Summit held in the former imperial capital, Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to provide free shipments of up to 50,000 tons of grains to six African countries. The summit, a follow-up to the 2019 gathering in Sochi on the Black Sea coast, saw Putin address a pressing issue concerning Moscow’s withdrawal from a crucial agreement allowing Ukraine to export cereals, including to Africa, through the Black Sea ports, despite Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports.
Putin’s announcement came as a potential relief to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea, as he stated, “In the coming months, we will be able to ensure the free delivery of 25,000 to 50,000 tons of grains” to these nations. However, this aid offer comes amidst accusations from the Ukrainian military spokesperson, Natalia Gumeniuk, who accused Russia of seeking a “grain monopoly” following a series of Russian attacks on Ukrainian port infrastructure.
During the summit, which saw the participation of 49 African countries, a final declaration is expected to be formulated, outlining coordinated approaches to Russian-African cooperation. In the backdrop of discussions on grain aid, the contentious issue of the Ukrainian crisis and the failed rebellion by the paramilitary Wagner Group in Russia raises concerns about the future of Russian operations on the continent.
The Kremlin has also scheduled discussions on the attempted coup in Niger, advocating for the “prompt release” of President Mohamed Bazoum, who was kidnapped by coup leaders claiming to have overthrown him. Niger’s coup marks the third Sahel country to witness such an event since 2020, raising regional instability concerns.
President Putin’s engagement with African leaders during the summit aims to bolster Russia’s ties with the continent. However, it comes amidst controversies and geopolitical complexities, including the recent International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant against him. The summit serves as a crucial forum for diplomatic dialogues between Russia and African nations, despite Putin’s decision to forgo attending the upcoming BRICS summit in South Africa.