Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lashed out at Western countries Wednesday as he wrapped up a four-nation trip to Africa with a stop in Ethiopia’s capital. Moscow is seeking to bolster support from African countries, who have largely declined to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Lavrov’s visit comes as the U.S. announced nearly half a billion dollars in additional aid for drought relief in Ethiopia. 

At a Wednesday news briefing in Adds, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied Western assertions that his country’s invasion of Ukraine is responsible for the global surge in food prices.

Lavrov said prices were rising before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and what he called “green policies” pursued by the West.

He also claimed that any additional increases in grain prices were the result of American and European sanctions on Russia.  

“I know that the Western media presents the situation in a totally distorted manner, if only to mention the food crisis, so called food crisis, as if nothing was of concern before February this year,” said Lavrov.

Lavrov is on the last leg of an African tour that has included Egypt, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. He has sought to reassure regional leaders that grain exports through Ukraine’s Black Sea ports will resume, while pinning the blame for their halt on the West.

Lavrov alleged Wednesday that he sanctions imposed on Russia are a sign the United States wants a return to a “colonial” world order.

“The West created a system which was based on certain principles: a free market, fair competition, sanctity of the private property, presumption of innocence, something else,” said Lavrov. “All these principles have been thrown down the drain when they need to do what they believe is to punish Russia.”

While in Addis, Lavrov met with the Ethiopian foreign minister, Demeke Mekonnen. The pair agreed to strengthen cooperation and economic ties, according to state media.

There was no indication that Lavrov met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has rarely been seen in public lately, or with officials at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.

AU officials told VOA that Lavrov’s stop was a bilateral visit between Russia and Ethiopia. 

Earlier Wednesday, the U.S. government announced a package of $488 million to help Ethiopia with drought relief efforts. Dry weather and conflict have left 30 million Ethiopian in need of aid.

Announcing the new funds, Tracey Ann Jacobson, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Ethiopia, said current weather conditions across the region were the “worst in recorded history.”

The new U.S. special envoy for the horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, is expected to arrive in Ethiopia Wednesday, his first visit to the country, where the U.S. is supporting efforts to mediate between the federal government and rebels from the northern Tigray region.

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