Russian President Vladimir Putin told leaders of France and Germany on Saturday that Moscow is ready to look for ways to ship grain stuck in Ukrainian ports, but demanded that the West lift sanctions.
The Kremlin head also warned French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz against ramping up arms supplies to Ukraine as they could further destabilize the situation in the pro-Western country.
The talks lasted 80 minutes, the German chancellor said.
Putin said the difficulties in supplying grain to world markets were the result of “wrong economic and financial policies by Western countries”.
“Russia stands ready to help find options for the unimpeded export of grain, including the export of Ukrainian grain from its Black Sea ports,” Putin told Macron and Scholz, the Kremlin said.
“An increase in the supply of Russian fertilizers and agricultural products will also help to ease tensions in the world food market, which will of course require the lifting of sanctions.”
The Russian offensive in Ukraine and Western sanctions have disrupted supplies of fertilizers, wheat and other commodities from the two countries, fueling concerns about the risk of shortages and hunger around the world.
Russia and Ukraine produce 30 percent of the world’s wheat supply.
Macron and Scholz, for their part, urged Russia to lift the blockade of the Ukrainian port of Odessa to allow grain exports, the French presidency said.
Both leaders “took note of the Russian president’s promise to allow ships access to the port for grain exports without it being militarily exploited by Russia if it is demined first,” the French presidency added.
The West accuses Putin of using hunger as a weapon in Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine.
While Ukraine’s Western lenders considered sending more arms shipments to Kiev, Putin also told Macron and Scholz that the continued arms shipments were “dangerous” and warned “of the risks of further destabilizing the situation and worsening the humanitarian crisis”. the Kremlin said.
The French and German readings of the phone calls made no mention of sanctions against Russia or Western arms supplies to Ukraine.
Scholz and Macron also asked Putin to engage in “direct serious negotiations” with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, the German chancellor’s office said.
The two EU leaders “pressed for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian troops,” the chancellor’s office said.
Putin said Moscow was open to resume dialogue with Kiev, the Kremlin said without mentioning the possibility of direct talks between Putin and Zelensky.
Talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations have been conducted both in person and via video link since the Russian military offensive, but have recently stalled.
The French presidency added that Macron and Scholz also asked Putin to release 2,500 Ukrainian fighters who had entrenched themselves at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and who later surrendered to the Russian army.
“The President of the Republic and the German Chancellor have asked for the release of some 2,500 Azovstal defenders captured by the Russian armed forces,” the French presidency said.
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