Russia ships free grain to Africa as Putin speaks of Ukraine peace talks

President tells G20 it is necessary to think about how to stop 'the tragedy' of war in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin calls for 'end to tragedy' in Ukraine during G20 meeting

Vladimir Putin calls for 'end to tragedy' in Ukraine during G20 meeting
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Russia has sent the first vessels carrying grain to Africa free of charge, President Vladimir Putin told an online gathering of the Group of 20 leading economies on Wednesday, as he said it was necessary to think about how to stop "the tragedy" of the war in Ukraine.

Moscow, which has been at war with Kyiv for 21 months, pulled out of a UN-backed grain deal in July.

The deal had allowed safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea, but Russia has since pledged to help six developing countries in Africa that rely on Russian and Ukrainian shipments.

Speaking about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in some of his most placatory remarks to date about the conflict, he said Moscow had never refused to participate in peace talks with Kyiv.

The conflict is Europe's deadliest since the Second World War and the gravest confrontation between Russia and the West, which has funded Kyiv’s defence, since the depths of the Cold War.

Addressing G20 leaders for the first time since the start of the war, Mr Putin said some leaders had said in their speeches that they were shocked by the ongoing "aggression" of Russia in Ukraine.

"Yes, of course, military actions are always a tragedy," he told the virtual G20 meeting called by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the current chairman.

"And of course, we should think about how to stop this tragedy.

"By the way, Russia has never refused peace talks with Ukraine."

Mr Putin used the word "war" to describe the conflict instead of the current Kremlin term of "special military operation".

A senior Russian official on Tuesday said Moscow could not coexist with the current government in Kyiv and it would continue what it calls its special military operation to "demilitarise" Ukraine.

Ukraine has vowed to fight until the last Russian soldier has left its territory and its western allies have said they will continue to support Kyiv.

Mr Putin skipped previous G20 summits in New Delhi and Nusa Dua, Indonesia, sending Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov instead.

The Russian President addressed the 2021 and 2020 summits from Moscow. He last attended a G20 gathering in person in Osaka, Japan, in 2019.

Among those to attend Wednesday's summit were Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silvas.

"I understand that this war, and the death of people, cannot but shock," Mr Putin told leaders, before setting out the Russian case that Ukraine had persecuted people in eastern Ukraine.

He also referenced the war in Gaza, saying: "And the extermination of the civilian population in Palestine, in the Gaza Strip today, is not shocking?" .

He also said it was surely shocking that doctors in Gaza were having to perform operations on children without anaesthesia.

Meanwhile, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged leaders of the top rich and developing nations to work together to ensure the Israel-Hamas war doesn't expand.

He said the hostages should be released and humanitarian assistance expedited.

Updated: November 22, 2023, 10:04 PM