Putin to discuss grain deal with African leaders on June 17

By Anadolu Agency

Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss the Black Sea Grain Initiative with African leaders on June 17 on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, his aide said on Wednesday.

African leaders are interested in stable grain supply to the continent, which has so far not been ensured under the current grain deal, Yury Ushakov told reporters on the sidelines of the forum, which opened today.

Moscow has been closely analyzing what is happening under the deal and its concerns are well-known, he noted.

“We are not satisfied how the terms of this deal concerning Russia are being fulfilled. Completely unsatisfied. And in this context, naturally, we will think about whether to continue to extend this deal or not,” he said.

Ushakov said the second Russia-Africa summit will take place on July 27-28 in Saint Petersburg despite the “most powerful” pressure that the West is putting on African states.

“Despite the pressure, most of the states have confirmed their participation in our summit,” he said.

Preparations are “actively” being made for the summit, Ushakov said, adding he expects that the meeting will have “great importance for the further development of Russia’s relations with the countries of the African continent.”

BRICS summit in South Africa

Turning to a top-level meeting of the leaders of the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — planned for the end of August in Johannesburg, South Africa, Ushakov said many organizational matters have not been resolved.

Specifically, the South African side has not clarified what it is going to do about the warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the arrest of President Putin, he noted.

“In particular, we can say directly that the question of how the South African side means to execute the illegal decision of the International Criminal Court is unclear,” he said.

Ushakov said the issue of the association’s expansion is one of the most important items on BRICS’s agenda this year, as “a big number of countries, both large and medium-sized, are interested in joining the BRICS format.”

“Some openly declare that they want to participate as full members and ask to be accepted immediately, while others are interested in maintaining possible cooperation, in being partners in the dialogue with the organization…We have literally a flood of applications for joining this organization,” he said.

Ushakov said the decision on accession is not easy, as on the one hand, no one should be rejected, while on the other hand, the format has to preserve its capability to work effectively so that new members would not “blur” it with approaches that “deeply oppose the interests of the founding countries.”

On reports about the possible participation of French President Emmanuel Macron in the BRICS summit, Ushakov said it is up to the host country to invite guests, and sometimes there are attendees that do not take part in the main events.

“I know that the South African presidency at the beginning was aiming to invite literally the majority of African states to this summit. I don’t know how things are with this invitation. In general, there is such practice, but as a rule, such issues are agreed between the participating countries,” he said.

Russia-US relations

Asked about Russian-US relations, Ushakov said that “so far, there is no improvement in sight” and “the state of affairs on the Russian-American track is not particularly encouraging.”

He called remarks by the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell that Russia’s president is waiting for the US presidential election to launch peace talks on Ukraine “an exaggeration.”

“Putin is not sitting and waiting for the results of the US election. Of course, it is probably of interest to any normal person, but there are no super-expectations,” he noted.

According to Ushakov, China’s peace initiative for Ukraine has been actively discussed, and “it has been and is being given very great importance due to its author.”

He said contacts between Russia and the US are limited to irregular communications between the Foreign Ministry and the US Embassy in Russia and the US State Department and the Russian Embassy in the US, including on the issue of visa delivery.

Also, from time to time, the two sides discuss the exchange of prisoners via special channels.

Ushakov also said that the Russian side was not invited to the funeral of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but “President Vladimir Putin is sincerely grieving over the death of his partner and friend.”