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Pope Francis called on Russia to return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which has allowed Ukraine to export agricultural products via its seaports to help alleviate the global hunger crisis.
"I appeal to my brothers, the authorities of the Russian Federation, so that the Black Sea initiative may be resumed and grain may be transported safely," the head of the Catholic Church said during his Sunday Angelus prayer.
Moscow withdrew from the Black Sea grain deal on July 17, warning that its forces would attack all ships going to and from Ukrainian ports.
The initiative, brokered by Turkey and the U.N. in July 2022, has played a crucial role in stabilizing food prices worldwide amid a surge caused, in part, by Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine. After Russia pulled from the agreement, wheat prices skyrocketed.
Francis urged people to continue praying "for martyred Ukraine, where was is destroying everything, even grain," calling this a "grave insult to God."
He is one of many global figures appealing to Russia to put the grain deal back on the table. Last week, a delegation of African leaders visiting St. Petersburg demanded for the Ankara-brokered deal to be reinstated.
By refusing to extend the deal, U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken stated that Russia is "weaponizing food" by denying food supplies to those who need it and making food prices worldwide rise. "I hope that every country is watching this very closely."
Ukraine is one of the world's largest grain suppliers. The deal allowed Ukraine to continue exporting its agricultural products through the Black Sea during the full-scale invasion.
Russia has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the grain deal since its implementation, using it as a bargaining chip to demand sanctions affecting its fertilizer industry be lifted.