VLADIVOSTOK, Russia—President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia and the developing world had been “cheated” by a U.N.-brokered Ukrainian grain export deal, vowing to look to revise its terms to limit the countries that can receive shipments.
Speaking at an economic forum in the city of Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East, Putin took aim at the deal, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, saying Ukrainian grain exports were not going to the world’s poorest countries as originally intended.
“What we see is a brazen deception … a deception by the international community of our partners in Africa, and other countries that are in dire need of food. It’s just a scam,” Putin said.
In his strongest comments on the topic since the deal was reached in July, Putin warned of a global food crisis if the situation was not addressed and said he would contact Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan to discuss amending the deal to restrict which countries can receive shipments.
“It is obvious that with this approach, the scale of food problems in the world will only increase … which can lead to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.
Putin said, without citing a source, that only two of 87 ships, carrying 60,000 tonnes of products, went to poor countries, as he accused the West of acting as colonial states.
“That’s how it is—they were once colonizers and have remained so on the inside,” he said of European countries.
“Almost all the grain exported from Ukraine is sent not to the poorest developing countries, but to European Union countries,” Putin told an economic forum in the eastern city of Vladivostok on Wednesday.
U.N. data shows that Turkey, which is not part of the EU, has been the most frequent single destination for shipments from Ukraine, with cargoes going to China, India, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, and Djibouti as well.
Putin said that Russia would carry on with the deal in the hope that its aims would still be achieved.
Ukraine’s agriculture minister said on Wednesday it was not aware of any formal steps taken by Russia to amend the terms of the deal, which remains the only significant diplomatic breakthrough in the six-month conflict.
Putin also said some restrictions on Russia’s fertilizer exports had been eased, but “clever sanctions” were still complicating Russian trade.
Moscow says it was promised the removal of some logistical sanctions which it says disrupt its own exports of agricultural products and fertilizers, in exchange for easing the military blockade on Ukraine’s southern ports.
“There are no direct sanctions against products, but there are restrictions related to logistics, freight, payments and insurance. Many of these elements of restrictions remain,” Putin said.
The grain deal, signed in July, aimed to avert a global food crisis by guaranteeing the safe passage of ships in and out of Ukrainian ports, allowing them to export tens of millions of tonnes of grain.