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Ukraine’s initiative to send grain to Africa gets Western support

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday received top Western officials as he officially launched a new food initiative to subsidize grain exports to Africa.

Zelenskyy hosted prime ministers and heads of state from Belgium, Lithuania, Poland and Hungary in Kyiv on the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor — the famine that Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union inflicted on Ukrainians — and officially launched a “Grain From Ukraine” initiative with governments and international organizations including the United Nations World Food Program.

Other leaders, such as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, participated virtually.

Ukraine first presented the new initiative at a G20 meeting earlier this month with the goal of reaching at least 5 million people by next summer.

Under the initiative, Ukraine would send up to 60 grain ships to poorer countries in Africa, according to Zelenskyy.

“More than 20 countries supported our summit. The total amount that we have accumulated for Grain From Ukraine is already almost $150 million,” the Ukrainian leader said on Telegram. “We are preparing up to 60 ships.”

Several countries have announced the amount of their financial support to the initiative. Among the backers: the U.S. ($20 million), France ($20 million), the U.K. ($6 million), Sweden ($9.5 million), Austria ($3.9 million), and Canada ($30 million).

Asked about the EU contribution to the “Grain From Ukraine” initiative, a European Commission spokesperson said that “the Commission will finance the transport of 40,000 tons of Ukrainian grain.”

That new EU aid “comes in addition to the recent €1 billion announced to reinforce the Solidarity Lanes, which have allowed the export of 17 million tons so far and the only way for Ukraine to export other non-agricultural goods,” the spokesperson said.

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