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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday denied that Moscow was blocking Ukrainian ports from exporting grain, blaming the West for rising global food prices.

Rescuers carry the body of a civilian to the site of an apartment building destroyed by Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine. (AP)

“We are now seeing attempts to blame Russia for what is happening in the global food market, for emerging problems in this market,” he told state television.

He said the best solution would be for Western sanctions against Russia’s ally Belarus to be lifted and for Ukraine to export grain through that country.

Ukrainian officials are counting on advanced missile systems that the United States and Britain recently promised would swing the war in their favor, and Ukrainian troops have already begun training on these systems.

While Ukraine’s resistance has forced Putin to narrow his immediate goal to conquering the entire Donbass region, Ukrainian officials have said he remains determined to subjugate the entire country. “Putin’s main goal is the destruction of Ukraine. He does not back down from his goals, despite the fact that Ukraine won the first stage of this full-scale war,” the deputy minister said on Friday. Ukrainian Defense Minister, Hanna Malyar, on national television.

Moscow has deployed troops and equipment in the battle for Sievierodonetsk, which Russia must invade to take all of Lugansk, one of two provinces that make up the eastern Donbass region that the Kremlin has said it intends to capture.


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