Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to have announced his willingness in principle to allow the export of grain from Ukraine via its seaports.

This was reported by Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Friday afternoon after a telephone conversation he had previously had with Putin.

Putin has "given signals that he is quite willing to allow exports via seaports," said Nehammer.

However, he added skeptically that one would have to wait and see whether that actually happened.

In April, Nehammer was the first Western head of government to visit Putin in Moscow for talks, but emphasized that he first spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and that the Russian aggression against Ukraine should be condemned.

That's what he said now.

Stephen Lowenstein

Political correspondent based in Vienna.

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The Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea, especially Odessa, which have not yet been occupied by the Russian invaders, are being blocked by Russian warships.

The Ukrainian defenders, in turn, blocked them with sea mines.

Nehammer pointed to the problematic question of what would happen if the Ukrainians opened the barriers to let food ships out.

The Austrian chancellor stated that the Russian side had given assurances that they were ready not to take advantage of such an opening.

"But you know, a lot is possible in war."

"Very intense, very serious"

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plays an important role in food exports via “green corridors”.

He agreed with him before his 45-minute meeting with Putin, as well as with Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Schmyhal.

He also spoke to the President of the International Red Cross, Peter Maurer, this week.

On Friday he also spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone to discuss the Istanbul peace process and the issue of food security in connection with the war in Ukraine.

Nehammer spoke of Austria's "active policy of neutrality" in the context of the EU.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel would be informed.

With his call to Putin, he continued a process that he started six weeks ago with his visit, Nehammer said.

The conversation now was "very intense, very serious".

Putin has promised to intensify negotiations with Ukraine on the issue of prisoner exchanges.

He also promised to give the International Red Cross access to prisoners of war.

Putin demands the same from the Ukrainian side, Nehammer said, pointing out that Kyiv had already promised this.

Putin is "fully aware" of the problem of food security, said Nehammer. But the Russian President attributes this to Western sanctions. Putin is "completely stuck in his war logic", he tends to "count up". The energy issue is from his Russian one Nehammer said that Putin had promised to make all gas deliveries in full. However, he pointed out that Austria had granted the Russian state-owned company Gazprom or its subsidiaries the rights to use the Haidach gas storage facility (which is particularly important for the German supply). to withdraw if the memory is not filled.Putin dismissed this as a "technical question".

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