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Russia Ukraine conflict

Russia’s Putin says he’s willing to discuss resuming Ukrainian grain shipments

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Russian President Vladimir Putin told the leaders of France and Germany in a phone call on Saturday that Russia was willing to discuss ways to make it possible for Ukraine to resume shipments of grain from Black Sea ports, the Kremlin said.

Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a key global fertilizer exporter and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.

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“For its part, Russia is ready to help find options for the unhindered export of grain, including the export of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports,” the Kremlin said.

It said he also informed French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Russia was ready to increase its export of fertilizers and agricultural products if sanctions against it were lifted - a demand he has raised in conversations with the Italian and Austrian leaders in recent days.

Ukraine and Western countries have accused Russia of weaponizing the food crisis created by its invasion of Ukraine, which has sent the prices of grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer soaring.

Russia has blamed the situation on Western sanctions against it, and on the mining of Ukrainian ports.

The Kremlin said Putin also said Russia was willing to resume talks with Ukraine.

“Special attention was paid to the status of the negotiations that are frozen because of Kyiv. President Vladimir Putin confirmed the Russian side’s openness to resume dialogue,” it said.

Scholz and Macron asked Putin to hold “direct serious negotiations” with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the German chancellor’s office said.

The German Chancellor and the French President also “called on the Russian President to ensure an improvement in the humanitarian situation of the civilian population” in Ukraine.

The two European leaders “took positive note of the Russian president’s commitment to treat captured fighters in accordance with international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Conventions, and to ensure unhindered access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

According to the Elysee palace, Macron and Scholz also urged Putin to release the 2,500 Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal steel plant detained by Russian forces.

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