Pope calls on Russia to return to Ukraine grain deal
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday called on Russia to return to the agreement that had allowed the safe passage of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea to world markets.
The Ukraine grain deal was agreed last year and allowed around 33 million tonnes of grain to leave Ukrainian ports, helping to stabilise global food prices and avert shortages.
"I am calling on my brothers, the authorities in the Russian Federation, to re-establish the Black Sea initiative so that the wheat could be safely transported", Francis said during his weekly Angelus prayer.
"We are constantly praying for martyred Ukraine, where the war is destroying everything, including the wheat, which is a major offence to God because wheat is his gift to feed humanity and the cries of millions of our brothers and sisters suffering from hunger are lifting to the sky," he said.
Russia two weeks ago refused to extend a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, under which Ukrainian grain exports passed through the Black Sea to reach global markets, including Africa, easing pressure on food prices.
Moscow withdrew from the agreement after protesting for months that the parts of the deal that allowed for the export of Russian fertiliser were not honoured.
Following Russia's pullout, wheat prices have risen.