VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned of a looming global food crisis and said he would discuss amending a landmark grain deal with Ukraine to limit the countries that can receive cargo shipments.
Putin said on Wednesday that Moscow had done everything it could to ensure Ukraine was able to export its grain, but that problems on the global food market were likely to intensify and that a humanitarian catastrophe was looming.
Putin said Russia had signed the deal in July, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, on the understanding it would help alleviate surging food prices in the developing world, but instead it was rich Western countries that were taking advantage of the deal.
“If we exclude Turkey as an intermediary country, then almost all the grain exported from Ukraine is sent not to the poorest developing countries, but to European Union countries,” Putin told an economic forum in the eastern city of Vladivostok on Wednesday.
Putin said only two of 87 ships, carrying 60,000 tonnes of products, went to poor countries, as he accused the West of acting as colonial states.
“Once again, developing countries have simply been deceived and continue to be deceived. It is obvious that with this approach, the scale of food problems in the world will only increase … which can lead to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.”
Putin said he would look at “limiting the destinations for grain and other food exports” and would discuss the idea with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, who helped broker the deal to unlock exports from Ukraine’s southern ports in July.
Several top Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have said over the last 24 hours that Moscow is not happy with the terms of the deal and that the West is not fulfilling its obligations.
Moscow says it was promised the removal of some logistical sanctions which it says disrupt its own exports of agricultural products and fertilisers, in exchange for easing the military blockade on Ukraine’s southern ports to allow food cargo to leave its ports. Lavrov said on Tuesday he had seen no steps by the West to ease the situation.
(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)