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Russia to return to Ukraine grain deal if demands met – Putin

Vladimir Putin, Russian President   -  
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Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Moscow would "consider" returning to the Ukraine grain deal if its demands were "fully" met, saying the agreement had "lost all meaning."

It was the first time the Russian leader commented since Moscow this week exited the landmark deal, which allowed the safe passage of cargo ships from Black Sea ports.

"The continuation of the grain deal in its current form has lost all meaning," Putin said at a government meeting.

"Of course we will consider the possibility of returning to it -- but only under one condition: if all principles under which Russia agreed to participate in the deal are fully taken into account and fulfilled."

He named the "withdrawal of sanctions on supplies of Russian grain and fertilisers to world markets" as one of the main conditions.

Moscow had for months complained that a related agreement on allowing the export of Russian food and fertilisers had not been honoured.

Putin said Russia had shown "miracles of poise and tolerance" by extending the deal several times.

But he accused Western countries of using the deal for "political blackmail".

"Instead of helping countries in real need, the West used the grain deal for political blackmail and... turned it into a tool to enrich transnational corporations and speculators in the global grain market," he said.

Putin spoke shortly after the Russian army said that cargo ships heading for Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea would be regarded as possibly carrying military cargo.

The grain deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey, had enabled the export of more than 32 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain over the last year.