Badly needed grain has been piling up in Ukrainian ports since Moscow invaded, but Russia’s top diplomat is in Africa saying the West is to blame. Report from Vivian Yee, Anton Troianovski and Abdi Latif Dahir
CAIRO — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia likes to cast himself as the leader of a global movement rising up against domination by the United States and its allies. On Sunday, his top diplomat brought that message directly to Africa, hoping to turn the hunger and social strife across the continent to Russia’s advantage.
He is likely to find a receptive audience.
Even before setting out on his four-country tour, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov made clear he would use the trip to blame the West for the grain shortages tied to the war in Ukraine that are raising fears of famine in African countries and to paint Russia as the continent’s faithful ally.
Ahead of the trip, Russia acquiesced to an agreement that allows Ukraine to resume exporting critically needed grain that has been blocked in Black Sea ports by the fighting, a sign of Mr. Putin’s apparent concern for public opinion across the developing world.
The global food crisis is expected to figure prominently in Mr. Lavrov’s trip to Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. But while the grain shortages were set off by the Russian invasion, the foreign minister suggested that Moscow was not the problem.
“We know that the African colleagues do not approve of the undisguised attempts of the U.S. and their European satellites to gain the upper hand, and to impose a unipolar world order to the international community,” he wrote in an article published in newspapers in the four countries he was to visit.
Since the invasion of Ukraine in February, governments in Africa and in the Middle East have found themselves caught in the middle.
Pressed by the West to condemn the invasion, these governments also seek to maintain access to Russian grain and other exports and to preserve friendly ties with Russia that in some cases date back to the Soviet era. Seeing no gain in alienating either side, some have tried to simply not take sides in the conflict.
For his part, Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has refused to condemn Moscow as strongly as the U.S. wanted. And on Sunday, after meeting with Mr. Lavrov, the Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, had warm words for his counterpart.
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Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, addressing the Arab League in Cairo on Sunday.Credit...Khaled Desouki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images