Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko (file photo)
A senior Russian government official says Moscow could allow vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine's Black Sea ports in return for the lifting of some sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian ports have been blocked since Russia launched its war against Ukraine on February 24, leaving more than 20 million tons of grain stuck in silos in the country.
Russia and Ukraine account for almost one-third of global wheat supplies. Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn and sunflower, and the blockage of its ports is contributing to a growing global food crisis.
"We have repeatedly stated on this point that a solution to the food problem requires a comprehensive approach, including the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko was quoted as saying by Interfax.
"And it also requires the demining by the Ukrainian side of all ports where ships are anchored. Russia is ready to provide the necessary humanitarian passage, which it does every day."
Russia is in touch with the United Nations on the issue, Rudenko was quoted as saying by another news agency, RIA.
However, Rudenko was also quoted by Interfax as warning against any possible escort by Western ships of Ukraine's vessels carrying grain, saying that it would "seriously exacerbate the situation in the Black Sea."
Rudenko also denied reports in the Western media that Russian forces are stealing grain from Ukrainian ports.
"We completely reject this. We don't steal anything from anyone," he told reporters .
CNN previously published satellite photos allegedly confirming that Russia is exporting grain from Ukraine through Crimea , the Ukrainian peninsula that Moscow illegally annexed in 2014.