NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – The President of Ukraine says tons of wheat from his country will arrive in Somalia in the coming weeks, where the approaching famine and the global food security and climate change crisis put millions of people at risk .
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s comment came when Russian President Vladimir Putin accuses the West of sending most of the grain from Ukraine’s reopened ports to Europe instead of to the poorest and starving parts of the world.
Speaking at an economic forum in Vladivostok on Wednesday, Putin accused the West of colonialism and suggested that Russia could talk to Turkey to review the deal that lifted the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports and allowed ships safe passage. .
“With the exclusion of Turkey as a mediator, virtually all of the grain exported from Ukraine has been sent to (European Union) nations instead of poorer countries,” Putin said.
“It is obvious that with such an approach, the scale of the food problem in the world will continue to grow and this could lead to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe,” he added. “Maybe it’s worth thinking about limiting exports of grain and other products on that route? I will certainly discuss the matter with the president of Turkey. “
Russia has raised the charge before, but this is Putin’s first time echoing it.
The Russian president said that out of 87 ships loaded with grain from Ukraine, only two were carrying grain for the United Nations World Food Program: 60,000 tons out of a total of about 2 million tons.
Only one ship from Ukraine made it to sub-Saharan Africa, docking at the port of Djibouti last week with grain that WFP said would go to drought-stricken Somalia and Ethiopia. That first ship was carrying 23,000 tons of grain, which WFP called enough to feed 1.5 million people on full rations for a month.
The Ukrainian president in a tweet Tuesday evening said 28,600 tons of wheat will arrive in Somalia in the coming weeks and blamed the next famine in that country for Russia’s actions this year.
“Ukraine continues to save the world with its wheat,” Zelenskyy said.
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 largest grain exporters. African leaders also visited Russia to meet Putin on the issue.
But now Russia is trying to turn the issue of food security against the West. “They have tricked the public and partners in Africa and other regions who are in dire need of food,” Putin said. “They claimed to be acting in the interest of developing countries, but they were acting entirely in their own interest.”
The Joint Coordination Center, run by the United Nations, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, in its latest update on Tuesday evening said 96 departing vessels carrying over 2.2 million tonnes have been enabled so far.
Food safety experts said many of the shipments are deliveries on existing contracts that were concluded prior to Russia’s actions.
One of five commercial vessels authorized to leave Ukraine on Wednesday is bound for Kenya with 51,400 tons of grain, the JCC said, adding that destinations “may change based on commercial activity”. The destinations for the other four ships are Spain and Turkey.
Isachenkov reported from Moscow.