“It’s Russia’s fault!”

Russia “stands ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizers, subject to the lifting of politically motivated restrictions by the West”, Vladimir Putin said, according to a statement from the Kremlin, during a telephone call with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre replied that the shipment of tons of products was prevented due to a naval blockade by Russia and not the sanctions, the lifting of which is not subject to “of no discussion”. “It is Russia, which is actively blocking the export of food from Ukrainian ports, and increasing hunger in the world. It is their fault”.

Mr Putin assured that Western accusations that Moscow, since its offensive in Ukraine, has blocked Ukrainian grain exports were “unfounded”.

“The difficulties that have arisen are linked, among other things, to disruptions in the functioning of production and logistics chains, as well as to the financial policy of Western countries during the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

“The situation has worsened due to the anti-Russian restrictions imposed by the United States and the European Union,” he said, referring to the unprecedented rounds of sanctions that hit Russia.

A peace process “frozen by Kyiv”

Ukraine, a major exporter of cereals, especially corn and wheat, is seeing its production blocked due to the fighting.

For its part, Russia, another cereal power, cannot sell its production and its fertilizers because of Western sanctions affecting the financial and logistics sectors. The two countries produce a third of the world’s wheat.

Vladimir Putin also informed Mr. Draghi “of the ongoing work to establish a peaceful life in the liberated cities of Donbass” and that the peace process was “frozen by Kyiv”.

Mario Draghi for his part declared during a press conference that “the purpose of this telephone call was to ask if something could be done to unblock the wheat which is today in the deposits in Ukraine”.

He suggested a “collaboration between Russia and Ukraine on the unblocking of the Black Sea ports” where this wheat is located, which is in danger of rotting, “on the one hand to clear these ports and on the other hand to guarantee that it there are no skirmishes during demining”.

Mr. Draghi indicated that there was, on the Russian side, “a readiness to continue in this direction”, and that he would call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “to see if there is a similar will”.

“When people ask me if I have seen any glimmers of hope for peace, the answer is no,” however concluded the Italian Prime Minister.

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