MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Russian officials would work to unblock Russian fertilizers stuck in European ports and to resume ammonia exports via a pipeline through Ukraine.
At a meeting with Russian businessman Dmitry Mazepin, who gave up control of fertiliser producer Uralchem-Uralkali after he was hit by EU sanctions in March, Putin said Russia was ready to increase its fertiliser exports.
“The main problem was probably the fact that quite a lot of fertiliser was frozen in European ports,” Mazepin said at the meeting, which was shown on state TV.
There are 262,000 tons of Uralchem’s fertilizer frozen in ports of Estonia, Latvia, Belgium and the Netherlands, he said. Other producers, Acron and Eurochem, have 52,000 tons and almost 100,000 tons of their fertilizer stuck in Europe, respectively.
The cargoes are stranded because of the EU sanctions on the companies’ former owners, including Mazepin. Uralchem said on Nov. 12 it had agreed with the Netherlands, Estonia and Belgium to ship the fertilizer to African countries for free.
Putin said, however, that even these proposed donations were being blocked. He agreed to ask Russian officials to help, saying he had been contacted by several African leaders on the issue.
“All the time we are talking about the need to help the poorest countries and on issues completely unrelated to food security these supplies, even donations, are blocked,” Putin said. “It is totally unacceptable, but it is happening.”
Mazepin also asked for Putin’s further help with resumption of Russian ammonia exports via a pipeline running from Russia through Ukraine to the Black Sea.
The export of ammonia, used in fertiliser, was not part of last week’s renewal of the Black Sea deal allowing Ukraine’s grain shipments, though the United Nations has been optimistic Russia and Ukraine could agree on terms for the pipeline.
“We had hoped that when there was a continuation of the grain deal, which was recently made, this issue would also be resolved. But I would like to report to you that the Ukrainian side puts forward a number of political issues that are outside our skill,” Mazepin said.
Putin answered: “We will also work with the UN, with our colleagues from the organization. We will see what comes of it.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in September he would only back the resumption of ammonia exports via Ukraine if Moscow handed back prisoners of war, an idea the Kremlin rejected.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)