President Putin said he was ready to overcome the food crisis if the “politically motivated” restrictions were lifted.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was ready to make a “significant contribution” to averting a looming food crisis if the West lifted Ukrainian sanctions on Russia.
Putin said in a conference call with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday that Moscow would act “to overcome the food crisis by exporting grain and fertilizers, on the condition that politically motivated measures imposed by the West,” the Kremlin reported. Restrictions lifted”. conversation.
It added that Putin also spoke about “measures taken to ensure the safety of navigation, including the daily opening of humanitarian corridors for civilian ships to depart from Azov and Black Sea ports, which are blocked by the Ukrainian side”.
Ukraine is one of the world’s top exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the war and Russia’s blockade of its ports have blocked most exports, jeopardizing the world’s food supply. Many of these ports are also now heavily mined.
Russia is also a major exporter of grain, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the West “must cancel illegal decisions that hinder the chartering of ships and the export of grain”. His comments appeared to be confusing the blockade of Ukrainian exports with what Russia said was difficult to transport its own goods.
Western officials have denied the claims. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken noted last week that food, fertilizer and seeds are exempt from sanctions imposed by the U.S. and many other countries — and Washington is working to ensure countries know the flow of these commodities shouldn’t be affected.
As the war enters its fourth month, world leaders are calling for a solution.
“This food crisis is real and we must find solutions,” World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
About 25 million tons of Ukrainian grain are in storage, and another 25 million tons may be harvested next month, she said.
European countries have tried to ease the crisis by moving grain out of the country by rail — but trains can only carry a fraction of what Ukraine produces, while most exports require ships.
The Russian Defense Ministry has proposed a corridor to allow foreign ships to leave Black Sea ports and a corridor to allow ships to leave Mariupol in the Sea of Azov.
Mikhail Mizantsev, head of Russia’s Defense Control Center, said 70 foreign ships from 16 countries called at six ports in the Black Sea, including Odessa, Kherson and Nikolayev. He did not specify how many people might be ready to bring food.
Ukraine is skeptical of Russia’s proposal. Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba said his country was ready to agree in principle on the security corridor – but was unsure whether it could trust Russia.
The question, he said, was how to ensure that “Russia does not violate the safe passage agreement and that its warships do not sneak into the port and attack Odessa”.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Strath said Putin was “trying to hold the world for ransom” by demanding that some sanctions be lifted before Ukraine was allowed to resume food shipments.
“He basically used the hunger and lack of food of the poorest people in the world as a weapon,” Truss said. “We can’t have any sanctions relief, any appeasement that will only make Putin stronger in the long run.”