Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday, Sept. 4, that Moscow is just weeks away from supplying free grain to six African countries after scrapping a deal allowing Ukrainian food exports through the Black Sea.


His comments during a press conference with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi came hours after Russian forces pounded one of Ukraine's key grain-exporting hubs overnight with a swarm of attack drones.


Erdogan told Putin that Turkey and the United Nations had prepared new proposals aimed at addressing Russia's problems with the deal, adding that he hoped to reach a workable solution "soon".


But Putin reiterated that Russia would only return to the landmark accord when its demands were met and instead gave details of the plan for shipments to Africa.



"We are close to completing agreements with six African states, where we intend to supply foodstuffs for free and even carry out delivery and logistics for free," Putin said.


"Deliveries will begin in the next couple of weeks."


The UN and Turkey-brokered deal, which aimed to ensure safe navigation for civilian ships through the Black Sea, collapsed after Russia pulled out in July.


Tensions have built in the region since, with Russia mounting attacks on Ukrainian export hubs and Kyiv's forces targeting Moscow's naval ports and warships.


- Turkey against 'alternative proposals' to Ukraine grain deal -

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Ankara was against alternative proposals to last year's Ukraine grain agreement, which Moscow scuppered in July.


Both Ukraine and Russia have aired rival plans to start sending grain across the Black Sea on their own.


But Erdogan, who helped broker the original deal, has been trying to revive the agreement and use it as a basis for broader peace talks.


"The alternative proposals brought to the agenda could not offer a sustainable, secure and permanent model based on cooperation between the parties like the Black Sea Initiative," Erdogan said at a joint media appearance with Putin in Sochi.



Ukraine has sent four ships along a new sea route, while Russia is preparing a plan to send foodstuffs for free to some African countries, and to send discounted grain for processing in Turkey under a deal also including Qatar.


- Ukraine's counteroffensive 'a failure' -


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday claimed that Kyiv's counteroffensive to retake Ukrainian land lost to Moscow was a "failure".


"As for the stalling counteroffensive, it is not that it is stalling. It is a failure," Putin said at a press conference with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi. "At least today this is what it looks like. Let's see what happens next. I hope that it will continue to be so." 


Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar earlier on Monday had said Russian forces were "on the defensive in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson sectors," referring to two southern regions that Moscow claimed to have annexed last year.



She added that Ukrainian forces had also captured three square kilometres (around one square mile) near Bakhmut, a town in the east captured by Russia this May.

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