European leaders have stepped up diplomatic efforts to loosen Russia’s grip on Ukraine’s grain supply, as Kyiv’s chances in the eastern Donbas region worsen and the risk of a global food crisis increases.
German Chancellor Olaf Schultz and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the situation with Vladimir Putin in a telephone conversation on Saturday. Putin told them that Moscow is ready to find ways to unblock grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and could increase its fertilizer and agriculture exports if the relevant sanctions are lifted.
Their conversation took place two days after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi raised the issue with the President of Russia in an attempt to alleviate the global food crisis that is threatening to turn difficulties in emerging market economies.
Ukraine and some of its Western allies have accused Russia of blocking the port of Odessa, stopping exports of large grain shipments.
Putin, Schultz and Macron discussed whether a solution could be found in negotiations to open Odessa to allow grain exports to leave Ukraine, according to an Elysee briefing after the call. The French and German leaders “noted the promise of the Russian president to allow ships to enter the port to export grain without it being used militarily by Russia – if the port had been erased in advance,” according to the briefing.
Berlin said the call lasted 80 minutes and was “dedicated to Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and efforts to end it.”
The risk of a global food crisis has intensified since Putin launched his total invasion of Ukraine, a major grain producer and exporter, on February 24. Russian fertilizer and agricultural exports were also hurt, for which Moscow blames Western sanctions.
Putin told Macron and Schultz that Russia was “willing to contribute to finding opportunities to export grain without interruption,” according to a statement from the Kremlin.
“Increased supply of Russian fertilizers and agricultural products, which of course will necessitate the removal of relevant sanctions, will also help dispel tensions in the global food market,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zalansky discusses the Black Sea siege in a conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“We talked about strengthening security support in Ukraine, increasing work on security guarantees, supplying fuel to Ukraine. We must work together to prevent a food crisis and eliminate the blockade of ports in Ukraine,” Zlansky wrote on Twitter.
Johnson stressed “the intensive work being done with international partners to find ways to resume grain exports from Ukraine to prevent a global food crisis” and said “Britain will work with G7 partners to push for urgent progress,” Downing Street said. Disclaimer.
Italian leader Draghi discussed the issue with Zalanski in a conversation on Friday, raising the issue in the past with US President Joe Biden.
Some Western capitals fear that the impending food crisis and its devastating impact on poor households in Africa and the Middle East could provoke a new wave of immigration to Europe.
Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbas region and claim to have fully taken control of Lyman, a railway center. The region was home to the toughest battles in a three-month conflict after Ukraine withdrew from it. Kyiv said the battle continued.
Ukraine has claimed that it has expelled Russian forces from Severodonetsk, the only major city not yet under Russian control of Luhansk, which makes up the Donbas along with neighboring Donetsk.
The governor of Luhansk, Sri Haidai, said Ukrainian forces had “succeeded in pushing the Russians to their previous positions” after two-thirds of the city was besieged, but warned that Russian forces “do not abandon their attempts to encircle our troops and disrupt logistics.”
Putin is also discussing the military situation with Macron and Schultz, the Kremlin said. He said Russia was open to returning to the negotiating table and accused Kyiv of halting talks.
The Elysee said Macron and Schultz reiterated that any end to the war must respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They also asked Russia to release 2,500 troops who had defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and have since been held by Russia, claiming they were in fact prisoners of war.
In a late-night speech, Zalansky said he was confident Ukraine would reconquer the territories that Russia was attacking with the help of additional Western military aid.
“We are protecting our land in a way that our current defense resources allow. We are doing everything we can to increase them. And we will increase them,” Zlansky said. “If the occupiers think Lyman or Swarodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong. Donbas will be Ukrainian.”
Another report by Joe Miller in Frankfurt and Amy Casmin in Rome
European leaders urge Putin to unblock Ukraine’s grain supplies Source link European leaders urge Putin to unblock Ukraine’s grain supplies