It was unlike any previous occasion. Media outlets were invited only to listen, not to ask questions as they usually do. At an event in the Russian embassy in Addis Abeba held to brief diplomats, which is near the Kebena River, though interested in learning more about the effects of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which Lavorv claimed was being fostered by the West, journalists were in awe and perplexed because they were unable to ask any questions.
The Foreign Minister delivered his speech with a hint of humour and sarcasm, while maintaining the much-touted Russian ‘dry and serious’ demeanor. Sergie Lavorv, wearing a black suit with a blue dotted tie, looked furious when he was addressing African diplomats at the event. From the neighbouring embassies of the United Kingdom to the diplomats of the European Union Commission, countries and institutions considered unfriendly by Russia were not part of the event, an expected outcome considering the souring of relations between the West and the world’s largest country.
Lavorv’s latest visit to Africa was intended to present Russia as a respectful friend to Africa, as opposed to “overbearing Western powers with a colonial mindset,” a comment he made during his trip to the Republic of Congo and Uganda. His half-hour speech at the Russian Embassy further detailed the Russian government’s positions on Ukraine and international relations in general.
Lavrov accused Europeans and the US of trying to lead the world by their own rules, which he called a “rules-based world order”. “If you analyze the behavior of our Western colleagues in the international arena, you will understand that these rules differ from case to case. There is no single criterion. There is no single principle, except one. If I want something, you have to obey. “If you don’t obey, you will be punished,” said the Foreign Minister.
He is not the first to accuse the West of applying such an approach towards a state or entity they consider an enemy. For the West, the most efficient method for punishing people who disobey the values they uphold is through sanctions.
The most typical justification they give to support such a policy is human rights breaches. It is indisputable that any act of violence or infringement on a person’s basic rights must be condemned and opposed. However, for others, the goal of such action is not simply to stop abuses but also to further one’s political ambitions.
There is also a ton of evidence showing that sanctions have empowered the abuser while worsening the suffering of the average person or victim. Similar to what occurred in Africa after the war between Russia and Ukraine broke out, the effects of the conflict extend to people who are not parties to it. Africans are most affected, despite not being a party to the conflict, as the battle between the two big countries has created what many have called “a food market catastrophe.”
The two warring countries nearly account for a third of the world’s exports of wheat and barley and more than 70 percent of sunflower oil. But the war prevented the two breadbaskets of the world from exporting food supplies across the world, making food more expensive while causing inflationary pressure, hunger and political instability in developing countries. The cost of grains is already climbing.
The war prevented about 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain from getting to the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia. Negotiations to win safe corridors for the delivery of grain out of Ukraine’s Black Sea Port, which is now under the control of Russia, bore no fruit until the signing of a new deal last week. FAO said a failure to win Russian approval for the safe passage of the grain means up to 181 million people in 41 countries could face a food crisis or worse levels of hunger this year.
Russia blames the West.
“The situation in Ukraine did negatively affect food markets. But not because of the Russian special operation, rather due to the absolutely inadequate reaction of the West, which announced sanctions, undermining the availability of the food on the markets,” Lavorv said during his briefing in Ethiopia.
The Europeans have a different view.
During his visit, which coincided with the tour of Lavrov, French President Emmanuel Macron called the global food crisis Russia’s “weapons of war” during a visit to Cameroon on Tuesday last week. He downplayed claims that the food shortage across the world is the outcome of the sanctions imposed by the west.
“We are blamed by some who say that European sanctions (on Russia) are the cause of the world food crisis, including in Africa. It is totally false,” said the President, adding, “Food, like energy, has become a Russian weapon of war … we must help the African continent to produce more for itself,” Macron said.
Amidst a series of accusations and allegations, last week saw the signing of a deal between Russia and Ukraine. The deal will allow Kyiv to resume exports of grain through the Black Sea.
The UN was the first to welcome the signing of the pact between the two parties in an event held in Turkey. In a statement issued late that day, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq expressed his confidence in the success of the deal in containing the global food shortage caused by the war.
“Together with the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Federation and the Secretariat of the United Nations on promoting the access of Russian food products and fertilizers to world markets, it will help reinstate confidence in the global food market and reduce food prices from their current levels,” said Haq.
A Joint Coordination Centre (JCC), which brings together senior representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Türkiye and the UN, has been established to monitor the safe transportation, by merchant ships, of commercial foodstuffs and fertilizer from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea: Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny.
On the deal’s success, expectations are already high.
“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea. A beacon of hope…, possibility… and relief in a world that needs it more than ever,” said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres shortly after the JCC’s inauguration in Istanbul.
Some in the humanitarian community expressed skepticism about the agreement’s success to control the world food crisis.
“If respected and enacted in good faith, today’s deal to protect Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea will help ease grain shortages, but let’s be clear—this will not end or significantly alter the trajectory of the worsening global food crisis,” concluded Mercy Corps Chief Executive Officer, Tjada D’oyen Mckenna.