Putin demands sanctions relief in grain deal talks with Turkey's Erdogan

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are to meet in Sochi on Monday for talks on resuming the shuttered Black Sea Grain Initiative. Photo by Sergei Chirikov/EPA-EFE

Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday demanded an easing of Western sanctions on his country's agricultural sector before rejoining a grain deal allowing Ukraine to ship food safely to developing nations.

In a meeting Monday in Sochi, Russia, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is acting as a mediator in the dispute, Putin said he was "deceived" by the West and believed Russia would get relief from sanctions slapped onto some of its agricultural products in exchange for serving humanitarian needs.

He claimed that relief never materialized.

"We are not against this deal," Putin said after his meeting with Erdogan. "We are ready to return to it as soon as the commitments towards us are fulfilled. [The West] deceived us at the expense of humanitarian goals."

Erdogan told reporters there was "no alternative" other than addressing Russian concerns over sanctions leveled on its own grain and fertilizer industries by Western nations in response to Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

The United States and many Western countries heavily sanctioned Russia on a wide range of fronts since the Kremlin launched its invasion in 2021.

"Putin said, 'We have completed the logistic work to send one million tons of grain to poor countries,' and we said, 'We, as Turkey, are responsible for whatever duty falls upon us,'" Erdogan said.

The Turkish leader said he believes a deal could be hammered out, but admitted there was concern that nearly half of the grain shipments were ending up in Europe and not to poor African countries as previously believed.

"Particularly as of now, the grain to be sent from the Black Sea grain corridor to the least-developed and poor African countries is important," he said.

The meeting got underway as Kyiv accused Moscow of targeting key port infrastructure over the weekend.

Russia launched 25 drones at Ukraine, which intercepted 22 of them, with the remainder hitting targets in the southern Odesa region.

Ukraine reported that Russia attacked its port infrastructure along the Danube River. Kyiv initially said the attack landed in Romania, which is part of NATO, but Romania denied that was the case.

"Unfortunately, there is a hit in the port infrastructure, as a result of which a fire broke out, which the firefighters promptly extinguished," Serhii Bratchuk, head of the public council at the Odesa Regional Military Administration said on Telegram. "It is known in advance about 2 injured civilians. They were given medical assistance."

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has repeatedly called for the safe export of grain and foodstuff from Ukraine, and late last week he sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a letter, presenting proposals to create the conditions for the resumption of the grain deal.

"We believe that the Black Sea initiative has given a very important contribution to make the food markets more adequate to our objectives of food security," he told reporters during a press conference, adding that a renewal of the deal must "be stable."

"We cannot have a Black Sea initiative that moves from crisis to crisis, from suspension to suspension. We need to have something that works and that works to the benefit of everybody," he said.