PHOTO: MIKHAIL TERESCHENKO/TASS/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCKRussian President Vladimir Putin posed for a group photo with African heads of state and other delegates at the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday.

By Ann M. Simmons, Wall Street Journal

Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to ship food and provide more security assistance to a swath of African nations after his move to end a deal safeguarding the export of Ukrainian grain, rattling nerves in many of the continent’s most vulnerable nations.

Putin is trying to maintain the support of several of Russia’s Cold War-era partners, and on Friday, the final day of a two-day summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, he told African leaders that he was ready to train their militaries, write off debts and provide thousands of tons of wheat and corn. He also pledged to extend trade relationships with African nations, some of which already have close ties to Moscow, while offering to help modernize their own agricultural sectors and open new embassies.

“I would also like to note that before our very eyes, the African continent is becoming a new center of power,” Putin told his counterparts. “Its political and economic role is growing exponentially. And everyone will have to reckon with this objective reality.”

Africa–the largest regional grouping represented at the United Nations, with 54 governments–is becoming an influential element in the tussle between Russia and Ukraine for international support.

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