Ukraine war did not cause food crisis and Russia 'guarantees' vessels' safety, says Lavrov

Russian foreign minister says Ukrainian president did not co-operate on opening grain corridor

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has refuted claims that his country's invasion of Ukraine is behind the global food crisis - and said Russia "guarantees" the safety of vessels leaving Ukrainian ports.

He was speaking after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara on Wednesday.

"We are not presenting any obstacles to the wheat exports," Mr Lavrov said in a joint press conference with Turkey's Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Mr Lavrov's visit to Ankara was mainly to discuss a UN plan for a corridor to re-open grain exports from Ukraine through the Black Sea to the rest of the world.

He called the plan "reasonable", and said the Russian president provided "guarantees" this his country will not take advantage of shipping to make military advances.

"We state daily that we're ready to guarantee the safety of vessels leaving Ukrainian ports and heading for the (Bosphorus) gulf. We're ready to do that in co-operation with our Turkish colleagues," Mr Lavrov said.

"To solve the problem, the only thing needed is for the Ukrainians to let vessels out of their ports, either by de-mining them or by marking out safe corridors, nothing more is required."

Cargo ships and bulk carriers in the Black Sea wait to enter Romania's Sulina Canal, a river channel that provides access to the Danube River. Bloomberg

Mr Lavrov said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy "categorically refused" to co-operate on some of the issues facing the exports, adding that Russia is ready to implement the draft plan discussed in Turkey.

Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the country exported up to six million tonnes of grain a month, but recent figures have gone down to a sixth of that amount, causing global food prices to spike and grain shortages to hit developing nations the hardest, specialised magazine World Grain said.

The UN said global hunger is at a "new high", and appealed to Russia to allow the "safe and secure export of grain" from Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said an estimated 22 million tonnes of grain are sitting in Ukraine's silos.

Ukraine has resorted to exporting by train or small Danube River boats since the invasion began on February 24.

The Russian official blamed the Ukrainian president for "changing" his position on a resolving export problem.

Mr Lavrov also said it is important to resume peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, which have stalled since a March meeting in Istanbul.

Mr Lavrov said Russia presented Ukraine with a revised peace agreement in April, which, he said, Ukraine has yet to respond to.

He also said Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine is going "as planned".

Updated: June 08, 2022, 2:35 PM