Ukraine says grain is coming to Somalia, but Russia is skeptical

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ukraine’s president says tons of grain from his country will arrive in the coming weeks in Somalia, where famine is looming and global food security and climate change crises are putting millions at risk.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s comment came as Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West of sending most of the grain from reopened Ukrainian ports to Europe instead of poorer and hungrier parts of the world.

Speaking at an economic forum in Vladivostok on Wednesday, Putin accused the West of colonialism and suggested Russia might talk with Turkey about revising the deal that lifted Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and allowed safe passage for ships.

“By excluding Turkey as a mediator, almost all grain exported from Ukraine was sent to (European Union) nations instead of poorer countries,” Putin said.

“It is obvious that with such an approach, the scale of the world’s food problem will continue to grow and this could lead to an unprecedented humanitarian disaster,” he added. “Perhaps it is worth thinking about restricting exports of grain and other products on this route? I will certainly discuss the issue with the president of Turkey.”

Russia has raised the claim in the past, but this is the first time Putin has repeated it.

The Russian president said that of 87 ships loaded with grain from Ukraine, only two were carrying grain for the UN World Food Program — 60,000 tons out of a total of about 2 million tons.

Only one ship from Ukraine reached sub-Saharan Africa, docking in the port of Djibouti last week with grain that the WFP said was going to drought-stricken Somalia and Ethiopia. That first ship carried 23,000 metric tons of grain, which WFP called enough to feed 1.5 million people with full rations for a month.

The Ukrainian president said in a tweet on Tuesday night that 28,600 tons of wheat would arrive in Somalia in the coming weeks and blamed Russia’s actions this year for the coming famine in that country.

“Ukraine continues to save the world with its wheat,” asserted Zelensky.

African nations have been at the center of Western efforts to reopen Ukraine’s ports, as the United States and allies have accused Russia of starving the world by denying exports from Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters. African leaders also visited Russia to meet with Putin on the issue.

But now, Russia is trying to turn the issue of food security against the West. “They deceived the public and partners in Africa and other regions that need a lot of food,” Putin said. “They claimed to be acting in the interests of developing countries, but they acted solely in their own interests.”

The Joint Coordination Centre, which is run by the UN, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, said in its latest update on Tuesday night that 96 outbound vessels carrying more than 2.2 million metric tons have been activated so far.

Food security experts said many of the shipments are deliveries under existing contracts that were entered into before Russia’s actions.

One of the five merchant ships allowed to depart Ukraine on Wednesday was bound for Kenya with 51,400 metric tons of wheat, the JCC said, adding that destinations “may change based on trade activity.” The destinations for the other four ships are Spain and Turkey.


Isachenkov reported from Moscow.

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