The EU is seeking to release Ukrainian grain that is stuck due to Russia’s sea blockade

Ears of wheat are seen in a field near the village of Zhovtneve, Ukraine.

Valentin Ogirenko | Reuters

EU foreign ministers will discuss ways to free millions of tonnes of grain trapped in Ukraine due to Russia’s Black Sea port blockade at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest suppliers of wheat, but its grain supplies have stalled and more than 20 million tonnes have been trapped in silos since Russia invaded the country and blocked its ports.

Moscow denies responsibility for the food crisis and blames Western sanctions for the shortage that has led to a jump in global food prices and UN warnings of hunger in poorer countries that are heavily dependent on imported grain.

The EU supports the UN’s efforts to mediate an agreement to resume Ukraine’s garden exports in return for facilitating Russian food and fertilizer exports, but it would require Moscow’s green light.

Turkey has good relations with both Kiev and Moscow and has said it is ready to take on a role within an “observation mechanism” based in Istanbul if there is an agreement.

It is unclear whether the EU would become militarily involved in securing such an agreement.

“Whether in the future there will be a need to escort these commercial ships is a question mark and I do not think we are there yet,” said an EU official.

Meanwhile, negotiations among EU member states are continuing on a new package of sanctions against Russia, according to the EU official, who signaled that new measures are not imminent.

The existing sanctions are already extensive and there is not much chance of agreeing to impose sanctions on Russia’s gas exports to the EU, the official said.

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