Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says his country is ready to sell oil and wheat to African countries even as the US Mission in Uganda opened a Twitter storm against Moscow.
Mr Lavrov on Monday met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Entebbe, where they discussed the issue of rising fuel and food costs in Africa following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
In a joint press conference at State House Entebbe, Mr Lavrov, on the second leg of his trip to four African countries, said the two discussed “the current energy situation and the food crisis”.
“We sell oil to all the interested countries, and if there is a state that is interested or willing to buy our oil, whether it’s India or an African state, then there are no obstacles to this,” said Russia’s top diplomat.
“Not only do we sell oil, but we provide assistance in terms of developing its own infrastructure like refineries and oil products. So we are committed to having a discussion with our Ugandan friends on this topic,” he added.
Mr Lavrov, who started his four-nation Africa tour in Egypt, then the Congo Republic before heading on Monday to Uganda, from where he will proceed to Ethiopia, observed that Africa has been hard hit by the economic dimension of the sanctions imposed against Russia.
But upon arrival in Kampala, Russia’s top diplomat immediately triggered a reaction from the US Embassy in Uganda, which took to Twitter on July 25 to comment about the current food crisis in the country.
“Great to see the $21 million USAid food aid for refugees and vulnerable groups in [Uganda] reaching people through WFP’s Karamoja response.
“We applaud WFP’s work to address the dire food security situation exacerbated by price [increase] due to Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine,” the Embassy tweeted.
Both Ukraine and Russia are major producers and exporters of wheat, whose supply on the global market was affected after the war started in February this year, which triggered sanctions against Moscow that prevented it from selling its oil.
While the sanctions do not affect food supplies directly, they have prevented Russian banks from using an international payment settlement system that would otherwise make it quick for importers to pay for supplies. Ukraine can also not export its wheat as its key ports are mined to prevent the entry of ships.
Last week, the two countries, on the mediation of Turkey, agreed to reopen the ports, but it may take several weeks before mines are removed and trust is re-established. In fact, there were reports of continued shelling even after Ankara brokered the deal.
In Uganda, President Museveni did not give details but hinted that the two leaders discussed how to avert the food crisis in Africa while millions of tonnes of wheat cannot be shipped from Russia.
“In the sanctions by the West against Russia, they don’t mention that they have sanctioned wheat or fertilisers – it’s not part of the list. But the West has stopped Russian ships from calling on a number of ports. So, how will the fertilisers go?” President Museveni posed.
The Ugandan leader also said sanctions against Russian banks were top on the agenda of the discussions as it is also fuelling the food crisis because the global financial institutions are not allowed to do business with Russia, which affects payment for wheat imports.
President Museveni explained Africa’s position on the Ukraine-Russia war, which saw Uganda and other countries from the continent abstain and take a neutral stand on the sanctions during the UN General Assembly in March.
Mr Museveni said that people with “limited understanding” want African countries to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine but argued that the Eastern Europe nation had “stood with Africa for the last 100 years” as part of the continent’s anti-colonial movements and can only be condemned when “it makes mistakes”.
“We highly appreciate the right balance and responsible position that has taken Uganda together with other African states in light of the current events in Ukraine,” Mr Lavrov said.