Russian President Vladimir Putin told French and German leaders on Saturday that Moscow was ready to look for ways to ship grain stranded in Ukrainian ports, but demanded the West lift the sanctions.
The Kremlin leader also warned French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz against increasing arms deliveries to Ukraine, saying they could further destabilize the situation in the pro-Western country.
The talks lasted 80 minutes, the German chancellor’s office said.
Putin said the difficulties in supplying grain to world markets were the result of “wrong economic and financial policies of Western countries”.
“Russia is ready to help find options for the unhindered export of grain, including the export of Ukrainian grain from 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 reduce tensions in the global food market, which, of course, will require the lifting of relevant sanctions.”
The Russian offensive in Ukraine and Western sanctions have disrupted the supply of fertilizers, wheat and other basic products to the two countries, fueling concerns about the risk of shortages and famine in the world.
Russia and Ukraine produce 30% 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 the export of grain, the French presidency said.
The two leaders “acknowledged the promise of the Russian President to grant ships access to the port for the export of grain without it being exploited militarily by Russia if it is first cleared”, added the French presidency.
The West has accused Putin of using hunger as a weapon in Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine.
As Ukraine’s Western supporters considered sending more weapons to Kyiv, Putin also told Macron and Scholz that continued arms shipments were “dangerous”, warning “of the risks of destabilization of the situation and worsening of the humanitarian crisis”. says the Kremlin.
The French and German accounts of the telephone conversations made no mention of sanctions against Russia or Western arms deliveries to Ukraine.
Scholz and Macron also asked Putin to conduct “serious direct negotiations” with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, the German chancellery said.
The two EU leaders “insisted on an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian troops”, the chancellor’s office said.
Putin said Moscow was ready to resume dialogue with Kyiv, the Kremlin said without mentioning the possibility of direct talks between Putin and Zelensky.
Talks between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations have taken place both in person and via video link since the Russian military offensive, but recently broke down.
The French presidency added that Macron and Scholz also asked Putin to free 2,500 Ukrainian fighters who were holed up inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and then surrendered to the Russian army.
“The President of the Republic and the German Chancellor have asked for the release of some 2,500 defenders of Azovstal taken prisoner of war by the Russian forces”, indicated the French presidency.