MOSCOW - Russia on Wednesday rejected suggestions that grain stuck in Ukrainian ports was fuelling a global food crisis as Moscow pressed ahead with its military offensive.
Moscow's campaign in the pro-Western country has not only devastated crops and farming, but also disrupted crucial deliveries from Ukraine -- one of the world's main grain producers -- fuelling concern about hunger and food prices worldwide.
"As far as we know, there is much less grain than the Ukrainians say. There is no need to exaggerate the importance of these grain reserves," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
"This is too small a percentage to have an impact on the development of the food crisis that has already begun. It was not the Ukrainian crisis that caused or sped up the food crisis in the world," he said.
"The Ukrainian side must say what they need, whether they want to send this grain somewhere at all," Peskov added.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in Ankara for talks to create a security corridor to ship grain from Ukraine, struck a similar note.
"The current situation with Ukrainian grain has nothing to do with the food crisis," Lavrov added.
Russia and Ukraine produce 30 percent of the global wheat supply.
Russia has repeatedly denied blocking the passage of cargo ships loaded with Ukrainian grain, instead blaming Western sanctions against Moscow for contributing to the food crisis.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that about 20-25 million tonnes of grain were currently blocked in Ukrainian ports and that could grow to 70-75 million tonnes in the autumn.