- Russia has said it will allow ships carrying food to leave Ukrainian ports if certain sanctions are lifted.
- Ukrainian Black Sea ports have been blocked since the Russian invasion.
- More than 20 million tonnes of grain are stuck in Ukraine amid a global food crisis.
A senior Russian government official said the Kremlin would allow ships carrying food to leave Ukrainian ports in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have been blocked since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, leaving more than 20 million tonnes of grain stranded 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 world’s largest exporter of sunflower oil.
“We have repeatedly commented on the issue and said that a resolution of the food problem will require a comprehensive approach, including the lifting of sanctions imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions,” the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said on Wednesday. Andrei Rudenko, as reported by Interfax News Agency.
Separately, Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said there is a “safe corridor” allowing access to the key port of Odessa, according to a Reuters report.
However, Ukraine must clear the waters before safe corridors can be used, Nebenzia said, according to Reuters. “They mined the ports, not us,” he said. “There’s a hallway that exists that they don’t use.”
The Russian Navy has disrupted trade in Ukrainian 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 dangerous, according to the Post.
On May 21, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned of a global food crisis if his country still cannot ship grain out of its ports.
“There will be a crisis in the world. The second crisis after the energy crisis, which was caused by Russia. Now it will create a food crisis if we do not unblock the roads for Ukraine, do not let’s not help countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, who need these food items,” Zalenskyy said, according to a transcript from his office.
The war sent commodity prices skyrocketing due to the disruption of production and shipping from Russia and Ukraine, as well as knock-on effects in global markets.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hit back at Rudenko’s suggestion, calling it “clear blackmail”, according to CNN.
“You couldn’t find a better example of blackmail in international relations,” Kuleba said at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, according to Reuters. “If someone buys it, I think there’s something wrong with that person, and we shouldn’t waste too much time trying to figure out why that person is making that point.”