MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Russia has started free shipments of grain totaling up to 200,000 tonnes to six African countries, as President Vladimir Putin announced in July, Reuters reported.

Agriculture minister Dmitry Patrushev said that ships headed for Burkina Faso and Somalia already had left Russian ports, and that additional shipments to Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Mali and the Central African Republic would soon follow.

Putin had promised the free grain during a summit with African leaders in July, after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The initiative had allowed for the export of grain following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Putin said the agreement was not getting grain to the countries in most urgent need.

Last year, Russia exported around 60 million tonnes of grain, Putin said.

Since quitting the initiative, Russia has repeatedly bombed Ukrainian ports and grain storage facilities, and Kyiv said hundreds of thousands of tons of grain have been destroyed.

Ukraine said it has shipped about 3.2 million tonnes of grain through a new shipping corridor it established in August.