(Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Russian fertiliser producers were trying to fulfil contracts despite Western sanctions against them, which posed a risk to global food security.
Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was responding to a question about a reported proposal by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Russia allow the shipment of some Ukrainian grain to alleviate a global food crisis in return for facilitation of Russian and Belarusian exports of potash fertiliser, currently restricted under sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.
Peskov said Russia’s suppliers were interested in fulfilling international contracts, but that “sanctions have been introduced, which are boomeranging all over the world”.
Russia’s decision to send its troops into Ukraine almost three months ago has prevented Ukraine using its main ports on the Black and Azov seas, and cut its grain exports alone this month by more than half compared to the same period last year.
Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies. Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, while Russia and Belarus – which has backed Moscow in its intervention in Ukraine – account for more than 40% of global exports of the crop nutrient potash.
Guterres has said 36 countries count on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat imports, including some of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world. A U.N. food agency official said May 6 that nearly 25 million tonnes of grains were stuck in Ukraine.
But Peskov said Ukraine’s ports were heavily mined, and that President Vladimir Putin had told Guterres during recent talks in Moscow that removing the mines would be a very complex operation. At least four of Ukraine’s main ports are now under the control of Russian forces.
(Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)