Putin woos African leaders at a summit in Russia with promises of expanding trade and other ties

    Russian President Vladimir Putin courted leaders from Africa at a summit on Friday, hailing the continent’s growing role in global affairs and offering to expand political and business ties.

    Addressing the two-day day Russia-Africa summit, Putin emphasized that Moscow will closely analyze a peace proposal for Ukraine that African leaders have sought to pursue.

    “This is an acute issue, and we aren’t evading its consideration,” Putin said, emphasizing that Russia is treating the African initiative with respect and “looking at it attentively.”

    Putin also reaffirmed his pledge that Russia will maintain steady supplies of grain and other agricultural products to the continent after its withdrawal from a deal allowing grain shipments from Ukraine that fueled concerns of global food crisis.

    “Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products and will continue to support the countries and region in need by offering free grain and other supplies,” the Russian leader said.

    He declared at the summit’s opening Thursday that Russia intends to ship up to 50,000 tons of grain aid to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Eritrea and Central African Republic in the next three to four months.

    U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres responded Thursday that such donations of grain can’t compensate for the impact of Moscow’s cutoff of grain exports from Ukraine, which along with Russia is a major supplier to the world market. Guterres said the U.N. is in contact with Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and other countries to try to reestablish the deal that saw Ukraine export more than 32,000 tons of grain, allowing global food prices to drop significantly.

    Both Russia and Ukraine are major grain suppliers. The deal brokered a year ago by the U.N. and Turkey reopened Ukrainian Black Sea ports blocked by fighting and provided assurances that ships entering them wouldn’t be attacked. Russia declined to renew the agreement last week, complaining that its own exports were being held up.