Russia says it would let ships carrying food exports leave Ukraine if some sanctions were lifted

  • Russia said it would allow ships carrying food to leave Ukrainian ports if some sanctions were lifted.

  • Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea have been blocked since Russia's invasion.

  • More than 20 million tons of grains are stuck in Ukraine amid a global food crunch.

A senior Russian government official said the Kremlin would allow ships carrying food to leave Ukrainian ports in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea have been blocked since Russia's invasion on February 24, leaving more than 20 million metric tons of grains stuck in Ukraine, per Reuters. This disruption is exacerbating a world food crunch as  Ukraine accounts for 12% of global wheat exports and 17% of global corn exports, per ING Economics. It's also the world's largest sunflower oil exporter.

"We have repeatedly commented on the matter and said that a resolution of the food problem would require a comprehensive approach, including the lifting of sanctions imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said on Wednesday, as reported by Interfax news agency.

Separately, Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, said there is a "safe corridor" allowing access to the key Odesa port, according to a Reuters report.

However, Ukraine needs to demine the waters before the safe corridors can be used, Nebenzia said, per Reuters. "They mined the ports, not us," he said. "There is a corridor which exists, which they don't use."

Russia's navy has disrupted trade at Ukraine ports and currently controls all traffic in the northern third of the Black Sea, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing a US government document it obtained. This makes commercial shipping unsafe, per the Post.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on May 21 warned of a global food crisis if his country still can't ship grains out of its ports.

"There will be a crisis in the world. The second crisis after the energy one, which was provoked by Russia. Now it will create a food crisis if we do not unblock the routes for Ukraine, do not help the countries of Africa, Europe, Asia, which need these food products," said Zalenskyy, according to a transcript from his office.

The war has sent prices of commodities skyrocketing due to disruption in production and shipping from Russia and Ukraine, as well as knock-on impact to global markets.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hit back at Rudenko's suggestion, calling it "clear blackmail," according to CNN.

"You could not find a better example of a blackmail in international relations," Kuleba told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, per Reuters. "If anyone is buying it, I think there is a problem with that person, and we shouldn't waste too much time trying to understand why that person is making that point."

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