Latest Russia-Ukraine war news: Live updates
The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday that grain can be exported from Ukraine’s ports in the Black Sea using humanitarian corridors, amid concerns that a Russian blockade could threaten the global food supply.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin also said his country’s armed forces are willing to ensure the safety of ships carrying grain out of Ukraine. He added that Moscow will not use the humanitarian situation for what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The comments came during a meeting in Moscow with Martin Griffiths, the United Nations’ undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, according to a readout from the Russian Defense Ministry.
U.S. intelligence reports have shown that a Russian naval blockade has halted trade at ports in Ukraine, the world’s largest exporter of sunflower oil, fourth-largest exporter of corn and fifth-largest exporter of wheat.
Western officials have described Ukraine’s exports as essential to global food security and accused Russia of using food as a form of blackmail. The Russian navy effectively controls all traffic in the northern third of the Black Sea, according to U.S. intelligence assessments.
During the Thursday meeting, Fomin reiterated Russian claims that the United States and other Western nations that imposed sanctions on Moscow are responsible for the food crisis. He also said Ukraine, which laid floating mines to stave off attacks, must demine the Black Sea ports.
The European Commission proposed using rail, road or river to export Ukrainian grain. But it was not clear how allied forces could protect the shipments from Russian assault.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who spoke with Vladimir Putin via phone last week, said the Russian president had agreed in principle to free several million tons of wheat sitting in ports. A Kremlin readout of the conversation, however, did not go as far.