Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that if it were to heed a United Nations appeal to open access to Ukraine's Black Sea ports, the removal of sanctions against Russia would also have to be considered, the Interfax news agency reported.
Ukraine, one of the world's biggest grain producers, used to export most of its goods through its seaports, but since Russia sent troops into Ukraine, it has been forced to export by train or via its small Danube River ports.
U.N. food chief David Beasley appealed on Wednesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying: "If you have any heart at all, please open these ports." Beasley's World Food Programme feeds some 125 million people and buys 50% of its grain from Ukraine.
(Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Edmund Blair)