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BRICS summit kicks off in South Africa with business forum

BRICS leaders

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 opened this year’s BRICS summit with the Business Forum on Tuesday.

The Russian President reiterated his promise to deliver grain to six African countries free of charge, in a pre-recorded video, and emphasized that Russia will only return to the Black Sea grain deal if all obligations are met.

Russia had been saying for months that conditions for the deal’s extension had not been fulfilled.

“We refused to further extend this so-called ‘deal’ after July 18, and we will be ready to return to it, but only if all obligations to the Russian side are actually fulfilled. I have repeatedly said that our country is able to replace Ukrainian grain both on a commercial basis and as free-of-charge assistance to needy states, especially as we again expect an excellent harvest this year,” announced Vladimir Putin.

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Putin said in July that he wanted an end to sanctions on the Russian Agricultural Bank.

Other demands include the resumption of supplies of agricultural machinery and parts, lifting restrictions on insurance and reinsurance, the resumption of the Togliatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline and the unblocking of assets and the accounts of Russian companies involved in food and fertilizer exports.

Russia has repeatedly explained that the deal largely benefits richer nations.

According to the UN world food program 2.2 percent of the 32.9 million tons of exported Ukrainian grain went to African countries such as Ethiopia and Somalia while 44% of exports were shipped to high income countries.

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The BRICS are an increasingly important forum for Russia at a time when its economy is grappling with Western sanctions linked to the war in Ukraine, and it is seeking to establish new diplomatic and trade relations with Asia, Africa and Latin America.

President Putin said Russia was looking to develop two flagship projects in particular: a northern sea route with new ports, fuel terminals and an expanded ice-breaking fleet, and a north-south corridor linking Russian ports to shipping terminals in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – represent more than 40% of the world’s population and the summit is expected to discuss adding new members.

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