Leaders from the BRICS nations, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, and Russian delegations, inaugurated this year’s BRICS summit with the Business Forum on Tuesday.
In a pre-recorded video, Russian President Vladimir Putin restated his commitment to providing free grain to six African countries. He emphasised that Russia would only reengage in the Black Sea grain deal if all stipulated obligations were fulfilled. The extension of the deal had been a contentious issue, with Russia maintaining that conditions had not been met.
“We declined to further extend this ‘deal’ after July 18th, and we are open to revisiting it, but only upon full compliance with Russia’s terms. I’ve reiterated that our nation is capable of substituting Ukrainian grain both commercially and through gratuitous aid to countries in need, especially given our anticipated bountiful harvest this year,” stated Putin.
In July, Putin expressed his desire for the sanctions on the Russian Agricultural Bank to be lifted. Additional demands encompass the resumption of agricultural machinery and parts supply, removal of insurance and reinsurance constraints, reopening of the Togliatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline, and unfreezing of assets and accounts for Russian entities involved in food and fertiliser exports. Russia contends that the deal has disproportionately favoured wealthier nations.
According to the UN World Food Program, a mere 2.2% of the 32.9 million tons of Ukrainian grain exported found its way to African countries such as Ethiopia and Somalia, while a substantial 44% of the exports reached high-income nations.
Against the backdrop of Western sanctions related to the Ukrainian conflict, the BRICS framework holds growing significance for Russia. The nation is actively pursuing new diplomatic and trade relationships with Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
President Putin spotlighted two key initiatives: the development of a northern sea route with expanded ports, fuel terminals, and an augmented icebreaker fleet, and the establishment of a north-south corridor linking Russian ports with shipping terminals in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.
The BRICS alliance, encompassing Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, collectively representing over 40% of the global population, is anticipated to deliberate on potential new member additions during the summit.