Russia is in contact with Turkey regarding the export of grain from Ukraine but there are a lot of uncertainties from the Ukrainian side, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.
Turkey on Wednesday said a sea corridor from Ukraine for grain exports could be formed without needing to clear the mines around Ukrainian ports.
Russia said it had offered “safe passage” for Ukrainian grain shipments from Black Sea ports but was not responsible for establishing the corridors.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday said it would “take some time” to demine Ukraine’s ports, but a safe sea corridor could be established in areas without mines under a UN proposal.
Asked about efforts to export Ukrainian grain with Turkey’s assistance, Peskov said contacts were ongoing but stressed a lot of uncertainties on the Ukrainian side.
Çavuşoğlu’s comments appeared to mark a shift from an earlier proposal to demine Ukraine’s ports, a move Kyiv fears would leave it far more vulnerable to Russian attack from the Black Sea.
Russia said on Thursday it was facilitating the export of grain and oilseeds from Ukraine through Russian-held transit points on the Azov Sea, without explaining who was providing the foodstuffs for export.
Ukrainian grain shipments have been stalled since Russia’s invasion and ports blockade, stoking global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer.
The United Nations has appealed to the two sides, as well as to their maritime neighbor and NATO member Turkey, to agree on a corridor. It is trying to broker a deal to resume Ukraine exports and Russian food and fertilizer exports, which Moscow says are harmed by the sanctions.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday said a hotline had been created between Turkey, Ukraine and Russia to solve the grain crisis.
Over the hotline, a general from each country can participate in talks to “discuss the issue more closely and reach a result,” it said.
Çavuşoğlu discussed the UN plan with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Ankara last week, but said further discussions with Moscow and Kyiv were needed. Lavrov then said the onus was on Ukraine to clear mines around its ports for commercial ships to approach.
Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions.
Turkey, which has the second-biggest army in NATO and a powerful navy, has good relations with both Kyiv and Moscow and has said it is ready to take up a role within an “observation mechanism” based in Istanbul if there is a deal.