European leaders have stepped up diplomatic efforts to lift Russia’s grip on Ukraine’s food supplies as Kyiv’s prospects in the eastern Donbass region deteriorate and the risk of a global food crisis rises.
Vladimir Putin told his German and French counterparts Olaf Schultz and Emmanuel Macron in a phone call on Saturday that Moscow was willing to find a way to lift the blockade on grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports if the sanctions were lifted. May increase the country’s fertilizer and agricultural exports.
The three leaders discussed whether a negotiated solution could be found to open the port of Odessa to allow grain exports to leave Ukraine, according to a briefing after the Elysee Palace conference call. Macron and Scholz insisted on the urgency of lifting the blockade of ports to “avoid a global food crisis,” the Elysee said.
The French and German leaders “note the Russian president’s commitment to allow ships to enter the port to export grain that will not be used by Russia for military purposes, provided that the port has been demined in advance,” the briefing said.
Berlin said the call, which lasted 80 minutes, was “dedicated to Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and efforts to end it.”
The move comes after Russian forces intensified attacks on Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region. After previously vowing to drive Russia out of the country, Ukraine’s chances of taking control of the region have grown increasingly after Russia’s so far stuttering offensive breached Luhansk’s defenses and threatened to encircle Siver Donetsk. more pessimistic.
The risk of a global food crisis has been mounting since Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a major food producer and exporter, on February 24. Russian fertilizer and agricultural exports have also been disrupted, with Moscow blaming Western sanctions.
Putin told Macron and Scholz that Russia was “ready to contribute to finding options for unhindered grain exports,” according to a summary of his words shared by the Kremlin in a statement.
The Kremlin reported that Putin said: “The increase in the supply of Russian fertilizers and agricultural products, of course, requires the lifting of related sanctions, which will also help ease tensions in the global food market.”
The Russian president’s remarks were a reiteration of a message he conveyed during a recent phone call with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Ukraine and some of its Western allies have accused Russia of blocking Odessa, hindering bulk grain exports.
The Kremlin said the three leaders also discussed the military situation in Ukraine. Putin said Russia was open to returning to the negotiating table with Ukraine and accused Kyiv of stalling talks.
Macron and Scholz reiterated that any end to the war must respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Elysee said. They also demanded that Russia release 2,500 soldiers defending the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, who were later detained by Russia, saying they were effectively prisoners of war.
French and German leaders have urged an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops, Berlin said, and urged Putin to negotiate directly with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.