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Putin threatens to limit Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports

Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday accused EU countries of diverting all Black Sea grain to themselves, and called to limit the export of grain from Ukraine.

Addressing the plenary assembly of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Putin accused Western countries of taking the bulk of Ukraine’s grain being exported via the Black Sea, and added that he will raise this issue with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who mediated the deal along with the U.N.

“We should probably think about limiting the destinations for grain exports, and I’m going to discuss that with Mr. Erdoğan, president of Turkey, because it was he and I who came up with this plan,” he added.

The deal, reached at the end of July, offers the prospect of providing relief to millions facing hunger across the world as a result of the soaring food prices due to the war in Ukraine, a major agricultural exporter. Ukraine’s grain is critical for global food price stability, especially in parts of the world that are heavily dependent on Kyiv’s wheat imports.

Putin challenged that narrative in his speech. “Excluding Turkey as the mediator country, almost all the grain exported from Ukraine is flowing not to the poorest countries, but into the European Union,” Putin said. He explained that out of the 87 ships sailing under the Black Sea deal, only two were sent to developing countries.

According to U.N. data however, more than 20 vessels are heading to developing and least-developed countries (excluding those heading to Turkey). Six ships have Egypt as their final destinations, while others are heading to Djibouti, Yemen and Sudan.

The Russian leader accused the West of “deceiving developing countries.”

He said: “We need to help the poorest countries first and foremost. This is not what is happening right now. And I can tell you that this situation is the outcome of reckless action pursued by the elites of the U.S., U.K. and EU who are laboring under political delusion.”

Russia has made a concerted effort to court developing countries after its invasion of Ukraine, looking to strengthen its partnerships with other parts of the world as its relations with the West took a nosedive. It has maintained that the rise in food prices is the work of Western sanctions, and not its own invasion of Ukraine.

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