Food shortages: Sergei Lavrov tries Russia to blame the West as it rallies support on African tour

After visiting Egypt at the weekend, Lavrov will meet Congolese leaders face to face on Monday before traveling to Uganda and Ethiopia. All of these countries are highly dependent on wheat imports from both Russia and Ukraine.

Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat, and relies on Ukraine and Russia to supply its 100 million people.

Ukraine and Russia agreed on Friday to a deal allowing grain exports to resume from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, in a major diplomatic breakthrough aimed at alleviating a global food crisis sparked by the war.

On Sunday, Moscow’s top diplomat met Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. During that meeting, Lavrov blamed Ukraine for stagnation in negotiations on “a wide range of issues.”

Global food prices are up 17% since January, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

During his talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Lavrov said that the agreement to liberate Ukrainian ports would go ahead.

“It will be guaranteed that the Ukrainians will clear their territorial waters and allow the ships to leave from there, and during their passage on the high seas, Russia and Turkey will ensure their safety with their military navies,” Lavrov said.

arsenal horror

Russia has been accused of using food as a weapon of war, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last week that food had become part of the Kremlin’s “terror arsenal”.

“This is a cold, cruel and thoughtful blockade by Putin of some of the world’s most vulnerable countries and peoples… We cannot afford it,” von der Leyen told EU lawmakers.

But Lavrov was keen to shift responsibility for the shortage from Moscow, blaming the West in a letter he wrote Friday to newspapers of African countries and published by the Russian Foreign Ministry before his departure.

“Western and Ukrainian propaganda accusing Russia of allegedly ‘exporting hunger’ is baseless,” Lavrov wrote, calling it an attempt to shift responsibility.

Instead, he claimed, the “collective West” had monopolized the flows of goods and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbating the situation for food imports in developing countries that had been exacerbated by sanctions against Russia.

But food shortages in Africa remain severe. The United Nations has warned that as many as 49 million people could be pushed into famine or famine-like conditions due to the devastating impact of Ukraine’s war on global food supplies and prices,
Eritrea got all of its wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia in 2021, according to a June 2022 FAO report. Somalia, a country already suffering from severe drought, has seen an increase in malnutrition cases and wheat prices have at least doubled.

Most African countries did not condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as they sought to maintain a balance in their relations with Moscow and Western countries.

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It’s a position Russia is keen to protect, and Lavrov uses this trip to highlight Moscow’s “long-standing” relations with the African continent, and also notes that Russia is “not tainted by the bloody crimes of colonialism.”

In the letter, he praised the “balanced position” taken by African countries on what he called “the events in and around Ukraine,” praising their “friends” for not joining the anti-Russian sanctions despite “external pressures on an unprecedented scale.”

“Russia will continue to fulfill in good faith its obligations under international contracts with regard to exports of foodstuffs, fertilizers, energy and other commodities vital to Africa. Russia is taking all measures to achieve this,” he wrote in an article titled. and Africa: A Partnership with a Vision for the Future.

The letter was edited on Friday for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, the Congolese newspaper Les Dépêches de Brazzaville, the Ugandan newspaper New Vision and the Ethiopian newspaper Ethiopia Herald.

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