According to Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev, the project has become Moscow’s first large-scale humanitarian aid initiative Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev, left, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. © Sputnik/Alexander Kazakov

Moscow has completed the delivery of 200,000 tons of free food to six African countries, fulfilling its pledge to assist them in fighting hunger, Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev announced on Tuesday.

According to the minister, 25,000 tons of wheat for each country were donated to Mali, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, and Eritrea. Somalia and the Central African Republic (CAR) each received 50,000 tons, he said while briefing President Vladimir Putin on the status of the initiative, which was announced at the second Russia-Africa summit last summer.

“This was, in fact, the first time that such a large-scale humanitarian action had been carried out by our country,” Patrushev said.

The deliveries were made jointly with the United Grain Company, with the support of Russia’s ministries of foreign affairs and transport.

The campaign for free grain supplies to African countries began after Russia pulled out of the UN-brokered Black Sea deal, which allowed the shipment of wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizer, and other products to world markets, including for humanitarian purposes. Moscow accused Western countries of failing to meet their obligations under the agreement, such as lifting sanctions that prevented Russian agricultural exports.

Moscow started the shipments last November, when the Agriculture Ministry reported that cargo vessels bound for Burkina Faso and Somalia had left Russian ports.

Burkina Faso receives free Russian wheat Burkina Faso receives free Russian wheat

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Burkina Faso receives free Russian wheat

“The average travel time for each ship was approximately 30–40 days,” Agriculture Minister Patrushev told President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, adding that “the last ship arrived in Somalia at the end of January, and unloading was completed on February 17.”

While taking delivery of the first 25,000 tons of wheat at the end of November, Somalia’s minister of maritime transport and ports, Abdullahi Ahmed Jama, welcomed Moscow’s assistance as “timely” and thanked the Kremlin for the gesture. The East African country has struggled to deal with a hunger crisis caused by prolonged droughts and recent floods that have displaced thousands of people across most of its governorates. (RT)