President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky responded to Vladimir Putin's suggestion to export Ukrainian grain through Belarus. Kyiv will turn down such an idea, Zelensky said.
"We were offered to go [to export grain] through Belarus by rail. We even understand how much grain. But we also understand why we were offered this. We are not yet ready to follow this format and help our "friendly neighbors",” Zelensky said, RIA Novosti reports.
Earlier, Vladimir Putin said that the export of Ukrainian grain through Belarus would be the easiest way to solve the problem. However, in order to do that, one needs to lift sanctions from Minsk. According to Putin, there are several options to export grain: through Ukraine-controlled ports, including Odessa, through Russian-controlled ports on the Sea of Azov, through the Danube and Romania, as well as through Hungary and Poland. Grain export through Belarus and then to Baltic ports is the cheapest way, Putin believes.
On June 3, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that Minsk could help Kyiv with the export of grain through the country. At the same time, he noted that such assistance would not be unconditional: along with Ukrainian grain, European ports would have to accept Belarusian fertilizers, Lukashenko noted.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky also admitted that about 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol surrendered to the Russian Armed Forces, RIA Novosti reports.
According to Zelensky, the issue of the exchange of prisoners is entrusted to the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
“There is a second part today - to get them back home alive. <...> I personally trust them. We expect a result from them. But we cannot ask them every day: “So, what's up?"" Zelensky said (quote from Interfax-Ukraine).
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu announced the complete "liberation" of Mariupol on May 20, a little less than three months after the start of the special operation. Azovstal steel plant was the main center of resistance in the city.
Initially, Russia was planning to storm the plant, but on April 21, President Putin ordered to blocked the industrial zone. In early May, civilians were evacuated from the plant first, the wounded were evacuated next, and the military were the last to surrender.
On May 20, Azovstal came under the full control of the Russian forces. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, as many as 2,439 fighters of the Azov* Regiment (recognized as extremist and banned in Russia) and the Ukrainian military surrendered.
At the request of Ukraine, Turkey detained a Russian-flagged cargo ship as it was carrying grain from the port of Berdyansk. The problem will exacerbate when Recep Erdogan leaves politics.