Russia is on a reassurance mission to Africa to promise top wheat importers that the grain deal with Ukraine can be counted on.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has begun a four-country tour of Africa amid growing uncertainty over the future of the Ukraine grain deal.
The Russian official’s trip began only one day after Russia conducted a strike on Odesa, throwing into uncertainty the entire deal for the grain exports to restart via the Black Sea.
Lavrov began the tour in Egypt today, which is one of the top wheat importers in the world. Egypt bought 80 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine last year and has been torn this year between its ties to Moscow and its close relationship with the West.
Lavrov met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry Sunday and announced afterward that Russia confirmed the commitment of its exporters of cereal products to meet their orders in full for Egypt.
Lavrov said Russia and Egypt have “a common understanding of the causes of the grain crisis.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February massively disrupted grain shipments ever since. A blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet has trapped tens of millions of tonnes of grain and has exacerbated existing supply chain problems. The blockade has caused global commodity prices to soar.
The United Nations said an additional 47 million people are facing “acute hunger” due to the blockade, with many of the worst-affected countries in Africa.
After Egypt, Lavrov will travel to Uganda, Ethiopia, and Congo. The Russian tour through Africa is aimed at essentially rallying African countries to Russia’s side.
Russia has gone so far as to have Lavrov say in an article published in four African papers that he rejects accusations that Russia is responsible for the food crisis.
In the article, Lavrov hailed a so-called “independent path” that he says African nations are taking, by refusing to join Western sanctions against Russia.
The trip comes as Ukraine issued stark warnings that grain exports would not begin after the signing of the landmark deal if a Russian air strike on a key port over the weekend was a sign of things to come.
The attack by Russia drew international condemnation. The air strikes cast enormous international doubts on the future of the deal.