European leaders press Putin over food crisis, call for diplomatic end to Ukraine’s war

European leaders on Saturday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to lift a blockade on Ukrainian grain exports as world leaders brace for a looming food crisis.

In a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Schultz, Putin promised to allow ships into Ukraine’s Black Sea once the waterways were cleared of mines, according to a statement released by France. important port city of Odessa. call.

Ukraine and Russia are the world’s largest producers of wheat, corn and sunflower oil. Russia has mines in many Ukrainian ports, hindering exports of critical food supplies.

Analysts fear the lockdown has put the world on the brink of a food security crisis.

Putin told European leaders that the Kremlin would not hinder grain exports from the port and that “Russia will not use the port for military purposes,” according to a readout of Saturday’s call by the Elysee Palace.

Earlier this week, the Kremlin pressured Western leaders to lift sanctions imposed on its invasion of Ukraine, claiming that Western punishment is preventing the export of millions of tons of food and other agricultural products.

The Kremlin also argues that U.S. sanctions hinder its own ability to export agricultural products.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken dismissed the Kremlin’s talking points, noting that food, fertilizer and seeds are not subject to U.S. sanctions.

On Thursday, the White House dismissed Russia’s call to lift sanctions and slammed the Kremlin for trying to blame Russia for the looming food crisis.

“This is what Russia is doing,” said White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre. “Sanctions by the U.S. and its allies and partners have not blocked Ukrainian or Russian agricultural exports, including food and fertilizers, nor the common transactions necessary for these transactions.”

“It’s on them,” she said. “Russia should immediately stop the war against Ukraine, which undermines food security, and allow the free flow of Ukrainian food.”

On Saturday’s conference call, Macron and Scholz also called on Putin to reconnect with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to find a diplomatic solution to ending Ukraine’s ongoing war.

They said any solution should be “negotiated between Moscow and Kyiv” and must take into account the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”.

— This story includes Telegram coverage.

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