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Russia reportedly said on Wednesday it was ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for ships carrying food to leave Ukraine – but that would require the lifting of some sanctions.
“We have repeatedly said on this point that a solution to the food problem requires a comprehensive approach, including the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions,” said the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs, Andrei Rudenko, quoted by the newspaper. the Interfax news agency.
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“And that also requires the Ukrainian side to clear mines of all ports where ships are anchored. Russia stands ready to provide the necessary humanitarian passage, which it does every day,” he said.
The official said a possible escort by Western ships of Ukrainian ships carrying grain would “seriously aggravate the situation in the Black Sea”, and told the RIA news agency that he was in contact with the United Nations.
Western powers have discussed the idea of setting up “safe corridors” for Ukraine’s grain exports.
Black Sea ports have been blocked since the Russian invasion in February and more than 20 million tonnes of grain are stuck in silos there.
Russia and Ukraine account for almost a third of global wheat supplies, and Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.
The total area sown to cereals is already expected to be up to 30% lower than last year.
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“Anxiety around access to affordable food around the world is reaching fever pitch,” Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said this week.
As airstrikes continue in the eastern region of Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday accused Russia of deliberately bombing grain warehouses.
“Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail – by curbing supplies to raise world prices or by swapping wheat for political support,” she said. “It is to use hunger and grain to exercise power.”
Von der Leyen noted that vulnerable populations would suffer the most.
World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley has warned The Associated Press that if supplies from Ukraine remain off the market, the world could face a food availability problem in the next 10 to 12 months.
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In an intelligence update on Wednesday, the UK MoD said Ukraine’s land export mechanisms are “highly unlikely to replace the lack of transport capacity caused by the Russian blockade” .
“The fighting has already exerted indirect pressure on world grain prices,” he noted. “As the threat of Russia’s naval blockade continues to deter commercial vessel access to Ukrainian ports, the resulting supply shortages will further increase the price of many commodities.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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