Putin says he will open grain and fertilizer exports if sanctions are lifted
- Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would help export grain and fertilizer if sanctions were lifted.
- Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea have been closed since the Russian invasion.
- British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss criticized Russia’s proposals to ease food sanctions.
Vladimir Putin said he would open up the export of grain and fertilizer if sanctions against Russia were lifted.
The Russian president made the offer in a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday, according to an official statement from the Kremlin.
Putin said that Russia “is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizer, provided that politically motivated restrictions from the West are lifted.” He did not say whether the exports would be from Russia or Ukraine.
The Italian Prime Minister’s office said the two leaders talked about “a common solution to the ongoing food crisis and its serious repercussions on the world’s poorest countries.” The statement did not mention penalties.
The White House told Reuters on Thursday that there were no discussions about easing sanctions on Russia in return for shipments of grain.
Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea have been closed since the Russian invasion on February 24, leaving more than 20 million metric tons of grain stuck in Ukraine, according to Reuters. The disruption is exacerbating a global food crisis with Ukraine accounting for 12% of global wheat exports and 17% of global corn exports, according to ING Economics. It is also the largest exporter of sunflower oil in the world.
Putin’s comments follow comments by a senior Russian government official who said the Kremlin will allow ships carrying food to leave Ukrainian ports in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, according to the Interfax news agency. Ukraine called the proposal an “obvious blackmail,” according to CNN.
On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the West was solely responsible for the food crisis, as it had taken a number of “illegal measures” that led to the blocking of shipments.
“They should rescind those illegal decisions that prevent the charter of ships, prevent the export of grain and so on” so that supplies can resume, Peskov told reporters, telling Reuters.
On Thursday, Vasily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, said there was a “safe corridor” allowing access to the main port of Odessa in Ukraine, according to a Reuters report. He said Ukraine needed to clear the waters before safe passages could be used.
White House Press Secretary Karen-Jean-Pierre said at a press conference Thursday that Russia should stop blocking food exports from Ukrainian ports.
“Sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies and partners do not prevent the export of Ukrainian or Russian agricultural products, including foodstuffs and fertilizers, nor do they prevent normal transactions necessary for these exports, such as banking or shipping,” he said. Jean-Pierre, according to an official transcript.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss criticized Russia’s proposals to ease food sanctions.
“It is absolutely appalling that Putin is trying to impose ransom on the world, and he is basically using weapons for hunger and food shortages among the poorest people around the world,” Truss said during a visit to Bosnia on Thursday.
“What we can’t get is any sanctions relief or any de-escalation, which will simply make Putin stronger in the long run,” Truss told Reuters.