Putin is open to Ukrainian grain deal, wants Russian sanctions dropped

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia was ready to facilitate Ukrainian grain shipments from Black Sea ports, but wanted Western countries to lift their sanctions against Russian grain exports.

Putin spoke in Iran after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about a proposed plan to resume Ukrainian exports.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted Ukrainian trade, and with pressures on global food supplies, the United Nations became involved in talks to unblock shipments.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters on Tuesday that Guterres remained optimistic that a deal could be struck. He added that Guterres discussed the ongoing negotiations during a phone call Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Putin also met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Tuesday, signaling closer ties between the two countries.

“Contact with Khamenei is very important,” Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, told reporters in Moscow. “A dialogue of trust has developed between them on the most important issues on the bilateral and international agenda.”

“On most issues, our positions are close or identical,” Ushakov said.

As Moscow faces ongoing Western economic sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is trying to strengthen its strategic ties with Iran, China and India.

Iran, also facing Western economic sanctions and ongoing disputes with the United States over Tehran’s nuclear program, has expressed hope for closer ties with Russia.

“Our two countries have good experience in the fight against terrorism, and this has brought great security to our region,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said after his meeting with Putin. “I hope your visit to Iran will strengthen cooperation between our two independent countries.”

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that intelligence services indicated that Russia was “laying the groundwork to annex Ukrainian territory it controls in direct violation of Russia’s sovereignty.” Ukraine”.

Kirby said the areas involved in the plans that Russia is considering include Kherson, Zaporizhia and all of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

He also urged the US Congress to ratify Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership, saying the Biden administration wanted to see the two countries “integrated into the alliance as soon as possible”.

Both Sweden and Finland broke from long-standing non-alliance positions to seek NATO membership as a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Office gave its approval on Tuesday, setting the stage for a full Senate vote.

All 30 NATO member states must approve Finland and Sweden joining the military alliance.

Some information for this report comes from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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