Attempts to blame Russia for grain shipping trouble 'groundless': Putin

Attempts to blame Russia for grain shipping trouble ‘groundless’: Putin

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MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin told Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehamer on Friday that attempts to blame Russia for global food shipment difficulties were unfounded, pointing instead to Western sanctions, the Kremlin said.

“Vladimir Putin stressed that attempts to make Russia responsible for the difficulties with the supply of agricultural products to world markets are groundless,” the Kremlin said after the phone call.

“Detailed explanations have been given of the real causes of these problems, which have emerged due to anti-Russian sanctions by the United States and the European Union, among other things.”

Putin also urged Ukraine to de-mine ports “as soon as possible” to allow the passage of grain-carrying vessels, the Kremlin said, without providing further details.

He accused Kyiv of “sabotaging” talks with Moscow, it added.

Russia s offensive in Ukraine and Western sanctions have disrupted supplies of fertiliser, wheat and other commodities from the two countries, fuelling concerns about the risk of hunger around the world.

Russia and Ukraine produce 30% of the global wheat supply.

Nehamer told reporters after a phone call with Putin that the Russian president “has sent a signal that he is very willing to allow exports through the seaport”.

“The real willingness will only become apparent when it… is actually implemented,” he added.

He also said Putin assured him he was “prepared” to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Ukraine and “that there should be progress” on the matter.

“The Russian president has assured us that the International Red Cross must and should have access to the prisoners of war,” Nehammer said.

“Of course, he is also demanding access to Russian prisoners of war in Ukraine.”

Speaking to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday, Putin said that Moscow was ready to make a “significant contribution” to averting the food crisis if the West lifts the sanctions.

Putin also noted that Russia has opened “humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilian ships from Azov and Black Sea ports,” the Kremlin said.

In April, Austria’s Nehamer became the first European leader to visit Putin since Moscow began its military campaign in Ukraine on February 24. He said after the meeting that he was “pretty pessimistic” about diplomatic opportunities.

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