Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that “almost all” Ukrainian grain is transported under the UN-backed deal Ukraine has denied an allegation of trying to defuse a global food crisis.
On Wednesday, Putin said that Ukraine’s grain exports are making European countries richer than the developing world.
“Almost all grain exports from Ukraine are not to the poorest developing countries but to the EU countries,” he told an economic forum at the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok.
However, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in a statement denied the claims of Mr Putin, who ordered his forces to invade Ukraine in February which resulted in the disruption of grain exports. Both Ukraine and Russia are two of the largest exporters of wheat and other grains.
“In total, two-thirds of the ships are sent to Asia, Africa and the Middle East. like in August, after the first shipments were completed, the price of wheat fell by at least 5%.
“It is not consistent with reality for the Russians to fake sending only Ukrainian grain to Europe,” said Kuleba.
Designed to help reduce global food prices by increasing supplies, this pact is diplomatic breakthrough between Moscow and Kyiv over six months of war.
Act as ‘colonial’
However, Mr. Putin said that the agreement was supplying grain, fertilizer and other food to the European Union, not to developing countries.
He accused European countries of acting like “colonists” and said they were “once again simply deceiving developing countries”.
“With this approach, the scale of the world’s food problems will only increase,” the Russian leader said.
“Perhaps we should think about restricting exports of grains and other products along this path?” he asks.
But data compiled by a joint center in Istanbul that tracks the July agreement shows that more than a third of grain is delivered to European countries and another 20 percent to Turkey. The data show that Spain and Egypt are also major recipients of the grain.
It also shows 30% reaching “low and middle income countries” worldwide.
Tarik Oguzlu, a professor of international relations at Istanbul Aydin University, said: “I don’t think the Russian explanation on this particular issue reflects the reality on the ground.
“I think the Russians are feeling an increase in the Ukrainian attacks in recent days, and the Europeans are also increasing the pressure on Russia, so I think the Russian leadership may have decided to seek to cause damage. [given] this growing attack,” he told Al Jazeera.
More shipments are expected to begin arriving in famine-stricken areas of Africa and the Middle East under the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), which is underway.
The WFP-led famine relief effort focuses on supplying wheat and corn to Africa and other parts of the world that are in short supply.
The first ship chartered by the United Nations docked in Djibouti on August 30 as part of a response to the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa.
A second UN ship arrived in Turkey last week. The wheat is currently being milled into flour and will then be loaded onto a new ship and sent to Yemen at an undisclosed date.
“A third ship chartered by WFP today is anchored in Istanbul, intending to go to Ukraine and collect another shipment of wheat,” the Istanbul center said.
“We should see [this] as part of a larger geopolitical game. It’s part of the tit-for-tat [situation],” Oguzlu explained. “I find the idea that Ukrainian ships are targeting countries other than those in the Global South is somehow fabricated.”
But Moscow has expressed growing frustration with the way the agreement has been applied.
An amendment to the agreement also gives Russia open access to fertilizer shipments and lifts some economic sanctions to allow it to export its own grain.
The United Nations hailed the deal as the world’s best chance to defuse the acute global food crisis caused by the grain blockade in the Black Sea.
The Turkey-brokered July deal is valid for 120 days and can be automatically extended without further negotiations.
However, it requires both Moscow and Kyiv to sign the extension.
Putin said he hoped “the situation will improve somehow”.
“We will continue to emphasize that all of our grain and food exports are primarily geared towards developing markets,” he said.