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Senegalese president buys into Putin’s promise to free Ukraine’s grain

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is also the chair of the African Union, gave credence to Russia’s pledge that it will allow the safe export of Ukraine’s grain stocks after meeting President Vladimir Putin in Sochi today.

Sall warned EU leaders as recently as Tuesday that Russian propaganda, which blames Western sanctions for the global food crisis, was already spreading in Africa, a continent that is heavily dependent on importing food and fertilizers from Russia and Ukraine.

But after meeting Putin just three days later, Sall’s message was strikingly similar to Moscow’s line.

He said that Russia “is ready” to export its wheat and fertilizers, and called on “partners” to remove sanctions placed on them. Neither the U.S. nor the EU has sanctioned Russian fertilizers or wheat, but the African Union is concerned that sanctions on Russia’s financial system will make it harder for countries to buy them.

Sall tweeted that Putin “expressed his availability to facilitate the export of Ukrainian cereals,” even as Russia has bombarded or blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea ports like Kherson, Mariupol and Odesa since the beginning of its invasion in February. Around 20 million tons of cereals are stuck in the country.

The United Nations and Turkey are attempting to broker a deal with Russia and Ukraine to create protected shipping corridors to allow grain ships to leave those ports, but it’s unclear if those efforts will succeed.

Sall met Putin alongside Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission chairperson, who referred to the “historical, strong fraternal relations” between Russia and Africa.

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