Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia is ready to facilitate Ukrainian grain shipments from ports along the Black Sea, but that he wants Western countries to lift their sanctions on Russian grain exports.
Putin spoke in Iran after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a proposed plan to resume Ukrainian exports.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted Ukrainian trade, and with pressure on global food supplies, the UN has been involved in talks to unlock the shipments.
Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told reporters on Tuesday that Guterres remained optimistic that an agreement could be reached. He added that Guterres had discussed the ongoing negotiations in a telephone conversation on Monday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
On Tuesday, Putin also met with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, 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 trusting dialogue has developed between them on the key issues on the bilateral and international agenda.”
“In most matters, our positions are close or identical,” Ushakov said.
As Moscow faces ongoing Western economic sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is seeking to strengthen strategic ties with Iran, China and India.
Iran, which also faces Western economic sanctions and ongoing disputes with the United States over Tehran’s nuclear program, expressed hope for closer ties with Russia.
“Both our countries have good experience in fighting terrorism, and this has provided a lot of security to our region,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said after the meeting with Putin. “I hope that your visit to Iran will increase cooperation between our two independent countries.”
White House National Security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that the intelligence service indicated that Russia “lays the groundwork for annexing Ukrainian territory which it controls in direct violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
Kirby said the areas involved in plans that Russia is reviewing include Kherson, Zaporizhia and all of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.
He also called on the US Congress to ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to NATO, saying the Biden administration wants to see the two countries “brought into the alliance as soon as possible.”
Both Sweden and Finland broke with long-standing non-alliance positions to seek NATO membership as a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The US Senate’s foreign relations gave its approval on Tuesday, which paved the way for a vote in the entire Senate.
All 30 NATO members must approve the accession of Finland and Sweden to the military alliance.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.