Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed African leaders to St. Petersburg Thursday for the annual Africa-Russia Summit, coming just days after the Kremlin pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal that allowed safe passage to shipments of food and fertilizer from Ukraine. Heads of state from 17 African countries joined this year’s gathering — down from the 43 African leaders who attended in 2019. Putin said Russia will be able to replace Ukrainian grain exports and promised free shipments of food to six African nations.
President Vladimir Putin: “Our country can replace Ukrainian grain both commercially and as a free aid to the poorest countries in Africa, especially as we are again expecting a record harvest this year.”
Putin also pledged to consider a peace plan from African leaders to end the war. Among those spotted on the sidelines of the summit was the leader of the Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was photographed shaking hands with a senior ambassador from the Central African Republic. It was the first time Prigozhin has appeared publicly inside Russia since he led a failed revolt against Russia’s military in June.