MOSCOW (Reuters) - Tensions between Russia and Ukraine in the Azov Sea should not significantly affect Russia’s grain exports because it is low season, TASS news agency quoted the Russian agriculture ministry as saying on Thursday.
“The Azov route is being actively used for Russian grain exports during the river navigation period, so in the autumn-to-winter time, volumes of shipments via this route go down,” TASS quoted the ministry as saying.
“So the current situation (Russia-Ukraine standoff) is not expected to bring any serious changes (to grain exports).”
Russia seized three Ukrainian navy ships and their crews on Sunday near the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, over what it said was their illegal entry into Russian waters - a charge Ukraine strongly rejects.
Ukraine said on Thursday that two Ukrainian Azov Sea ports, Berdyansk and Mariupol, were effectively under blockade by Russia as vessels were being barred from leaving and entering. Moscow denied it was restricting shipping, saying it had not heard of any problems.
Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s biggest grain exporters.
Kiev has temporarily imposed martial law in parts of Ukraine over the crisis. However, the country’s acting agriculture minister told Reuters on Wednesday that martial law was not affecting Ukrainian grain shipments from ports on the Azov Sea so far and they could be diverted to the Black Sea if necessary.
Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Susan Fenton