Putin demands more exports to be directed to Africa under new Black Sea deal
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
PAVEL BEDNYAKOV / SPUTNIK / AFP
- Ministers from African governments attended the International Parliamentary Conference in Russia.
- Putin renewed the Black Sea deal for two months and called for more exports to be directed to Africa.
- If demands are not met, Russia will send fertiliser and grain to Africa for free after the deal expires.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded the bulk of grain and fertiliser to be exported under the Black Sea Initiative must be channelled to Africa.
The initiative, a facility that allows wartime Ukraine and Russia to export much-needed grain to parts of the world dependent on both countries, ended at the weekend after a 120-day cycle.
It was due for renewal and Russia allowed a 60-day extension instead of the UN’s 120-day wish.
Speaking to African government ministers on Monday during the International Parliamentary Conference, dubbed “Africa in a Multipolar World”, in Moscow, Putin said his key demands were that Africans should be the biggest beneficiaries.
“We insist on the package nature of this deal – above all, in the interests of African and other developing countries, considering that they need large amounts of food – we insist on full compliance with Russia’s key requirements, first of all, as I said, making sure that grain and fertilisers go to the African countries in need, and not to satiated European markets and countries,” he added.
Putin was unhappy with the last deal which saw about 45% of the total volume of grain exported from Ukraine going to European countries, and only three percent to Africa.
If he was not satisfied after the renewed cycle, he said he would not review it but take it upon himself to supply Africa, even if it was for free.
I would also like to add that if we decide not to extend this deal after 60 days, Russia will be ready to supply the same amount that was delivered under the deal, from Russia to the African countries in great need, at no expense.
The Monday meeting, held under the auspices of the State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly, was a forerunner to the Russia Africa Summit scheduled to be held in St Petersburg in July.
The summit will be for heads of state and government engagement – a counter to the US-Africa Leaders Summit held in December last year.
Putin outlined how “the partnership between Russia and African countries has gained additional momentum and is reaching a whole new level”.
He hosted the African contingent a week after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against him.
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In turn, he opened his own case against the ICC, which he accused of ignoring the 1973 UN convention on presidential immunity.
Under the ICC arrest warrant, Putin must be arrested when he visits countries that are signatories to the ICC and handed over to The Hague.
But history has shown that African countries, particularly South Africa in critical instances, have refused to abide by ICC arrest warrants.
In 2015, then-Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the ICC, visited South Africa amid expectations the country would hand him over to the ICC.
That did not happen and South Africa was found to be in violation of international law but no sanctions were placed on the country. This exposed the weakness in the ICC’s instruments to urge countries to respect and cooperate with international law.
According to a journal entry by academic Milena Steriov, “the ICC is currently facing significant challenges which may put the court’s legitimacy into question”.
These challenges include a weak record of prosecutions, discord among the court’s judges, and a difficult relationship with the world’s great powers, such as Russia and the United States.
With Putin seemingly in the good books of African countries and limiting his movements, he may remain untouchable.
During the International Parliamentary Conference, he highlighted one of the steadfast things about Russia’s foreign policy was close ties with Africa.
“I want to emphasise that our country has always and will always consider cooperation with African states a priority. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it is one of the unchanging priorities of Russia’s foreign policy,” Putin said.
Russia’s involvement in Africa back dates to the colonial area and the height of the Cold War during Soviet Union days.
Many African countries relied on Russia’s support when fighting for independence.
But the war in Ukraine, despite many African countries choosing a middle-of-the-road approach, has had adverse impacts on their food security, disrupting trade, reducing aid, and low development finance.
Putin ended his address by quoting Nelson Mandela.
In conclusion, I would like to recall the words of an outstanding African statesman and fighter for the independence and rights of the peoples of Africa, Nelson Mandela, which still sound so relevant today: nothing should divert us from the road to freedom, and we should not allow anyone to stand in our way.
“I believe that by joining our efforts and helping each other, we can do so much for the prosperity and well-being of the peoples of Africa and Russia,” he said.
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