Talk to Ukraine about ports, not us, Russia says ahead of UN talks in Moscow

A yard worker watches as barley grain is mechanically poured into a 40,000-ton vessel at the transport terminal of a Ukrainian agricultural exporter in the southern Ukrainian city of Nikolaev, July 9, 2013. REUTERS/Vincent Mundy/File Photo

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UNITED NATIONS, May 25 (Reuters) – A senior UN official will visit Moscow in the coming days to discuss the revival of fertilizer exports, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Wednesday, stressing the talks were not related to a resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Ukraine’s grain shipments from its Black Sea ports have come to a halt and more than 20 million tons of grain are trapped in silos, as Moscow says the chilling effect of Western sanctions on Russia during the war the export of fertilizer and grain.

The conflict is fueling a global food crisis with rising prices for grains, cooking oil, fuel and fertilizer. Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of the world’s wheat supply, while Russia is also a major exporter of fertilizers and Ukraine a major exporter of maize and sunflower oil.

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Nebenzia said that “formally fertilizers and grain are not under sanctions, but there are logistical, transportation, insurance, bank transfer problems” caused by Western sanctions that “prevent us from exporting freely”.

“We are ready to export fertilizers and grain from our ports to the world market,” he said, adding that when it comes to Ukrainian grain exports, “I think that should be negotiated with the Ukrainians, not the Russians.”

However, Western officials say any agreement on access to Ukrainian ports will require a Russian agreement, citing what they believe to be a Russian blockade and that security guarantees are needed.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who visited Moscow and Kiev last month, is in “intense contact” with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States and the European Union in a bid to negotiate what he calls a “package deal” to resume both Ukrainian food exports and Russian food and fertilizer exports.

“Turkey is willing to contribute to some sort of monitoring of these exports from Odessa through the Black Sea, because Turkey is traditionally very strong in the Black Sea and they are willing to help,” said a senior European diplomat on condition of anonymity .

‘HALLWAY EXISTS’

Nebenzia said Rebecca Grynspan, the UN’s top trade and development official, would discuss Russian exports during a visit to Moscow in the coming days. She is coordinator of the UN Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, which aims to combat the global economic shocks caused by the war in Ukraine.

Nebenzia also said he believed UN deputy chief Martin Griffiths would visit Moscow sometime in early June, but that he did not know “to what extent” Griffiths was involved in discussions over grain and fertilizer exports.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric declined to comment.

The United States and others accuse Russia of blocking Ukraine’s ports. Nebenzia has said there is an 80 nautical miles (148 km) long and 3 nautical miles (5.5 km) wide “safe corridor” giving access to Ukraine’s major Black Sea port, Odessa, but that Ukraine is mining from its waters. must remove.

“They mined the ports, not us,” Nebenzia said on Wednesday. “There’s a hallway they don’t use.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed disdain at the suggestion that Moscow wanted to allow Ukraine to ship grain, telling the World Economic Forum in Davos: “You couldn’t find a better example of blackmail in international relations.”

Odessa is Ukraine’s main deep-water port and was used to handle almost all of its grain exports. It has undergone a number of Russian missile strikes and Kiev fears Moscow may want to capture it, possibly through an amphibious assault.

Russia’s defense ministry said the port of Mariupol, Ukraine’s shallow-water sea-side town of Azov, taken by Russia after a long siege, was functioning normally after Russian forces finished mine removal.

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Reporting by Reuters; Written by Michelle Nichols and Kevin Liffey; Editing by Gareth Jones, Rosalba O’Brien and Himani Sarkar

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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