Erdogan sides with Putin on Ukrainian grain exports

The Russian leader is right to point out that most of Kiev’s grain shipments go to rich countries, the Turkish president said

Ukrainian grain exported by sea under a Turkish-mediated deal with Russia is “unfortunately” going mostly to rich countries, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.

The remark came in response to criticism of the scheme voiced by his Russian counterpart on Wednesday. Putin was correct in his observation, the Turkish leader outlined during a news conference, according to the Anadolu news agency.

Putin argued that Western nations, which pressured Russia to allow the export of Ukrainian food products by claiming that it was necessary to alleviate the risk of famine “once again simply deceived developing countries.”

The Russian president pointed out that most of the ships that sailed from Ukrainian ports since the export arrangement was put into place over a month ago went to wealthy EU nations, while only two delivered grain for the UN Food Program.

To address the situation, Putin said he would discuss with Erdogan a possible change to the terms of the scheme, which would limit destinations for grain ships leaving Ukraine. Officials in Kiev said they would not accept such restrictions.

“Russia can’t dictate where Ukraine should send its grain, and Ukraine doesn’t dictate the same to Russia,” Mikhail Podolyak, an advisor to President Vladimir Zelensky, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Erdogan also indicated he was on Russia’s side on another aspect of the grain deal that Moscow voiced discontent with – its failure to pave the way for exports of Russian grain and fertilizers.

“We want grain shipments from Russia to start as well, we expect this,” he said, adding that the shortcoming was “disturbing Putin.”

The UN, which co-mediated the scheme with Turkey, pledged to use its clout to get Western nations to lift sanctions on shipping, which hamper Russian exports. Moscow complained that the promise was never fulfilled.

The two leaders will discuss the situation on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan next week, the Turkish president said.

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