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MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin on Monday said Russia was nearing a deal that would secure free grain to six African countries, after the UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal collapsed in July.

Since pulling out of the deal, which aimed to ensure safe grain exports via the Black Sea, Russia has been keen to ally African concerns about the impact of the deal’s collapse on food security.

“We are close to completing agreements with six African states,” Putin said at a press conference with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He said that Russia would supply the food and carry out logistics free of charge, adding that deliveries “would begin in the next couple of weeks”.

Both Ukraine and Russia have laid plans to ship grain outside the framework of the grain deal, which the UN argued was vital to global food security.

Putin said Russia was ready to return to the deal “as soon” as restrictions on its own exports were lifted.

“We will be ready to consider the possibility of reviving the grain deal,” he said.

“And we will do it as soon as all the agreements on lifting restrictions on Russian agricultural exports are fully implemented,” he added.

Russia has criticised the deal before, arguing the West is imposing indirect restrictions on its grain and fertiliser exports by limiting its access to global payment systems and insurance.

Turkey wants the warring sides to return to the agreement and use it as a basis for broader peace talks.

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