By Michelle Nichols
(Reuters) – U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths is in Moscow on Thursday and Friday to discuss clearing the way for exports of grain and other food from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, a U.N. spokesperson said.
Griffiths will meet Russian officials days after another senior U.N. official, Rebecca Grynspan, had “constructive” talks in Moscow with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov on expediting Russian grain and fertilizer exports.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is trying to broker what he calls a “package deal” to resume both Ukrainian food exports and Russian food and fertilizer exports, which were disrupted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
“The situation remains fluid. The Secretary‑General, and the two main people he has tasked to work on this, Rebecca Grynspan and Martin Griffiths – we will do and go anywhere we need to go to push this project forward,” spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Thursday that vessels carrying grain can leave Ukraine’s ports in the Black Sea via “humanitarian corridors” and Russia is ready to guarantee their safety, Interfax news agency said.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has fuelled a global food crisis with prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer soaring. Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies. Russia is also a fertilizer exporter and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.
Since the invasion Ukrainian grain shipments from its Black Sea ports have stalled and more than 20 million tonnes of grain are stuck in silos, while Moscow says the chilling effect of Western sanctions imposed on Russia has hurt its fertilizer and grain exports.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Tuesday that the United States is prepared to give “comfort letters” to shipping and insurance companies to help facilitate exports of Russian grain and fertilizer.
But she also said: “Russia is able to get its oil out, and that’s sanctioned. They should be able to get their grain out that’s not sanctioned.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)