VILNIUS - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, currently in Vilnius, has ruled out lifting the existing sanctions for Minsk in exchange for Ukrainian grain transit through Belarus, adding that Western countries are looking for ways to get grain safely out of the war-torn country to avoid a global food shortage.
"By no means, it does not mean we should lift the sanctions we have adopted for (Alexander) Lukashenko," the German chancellor told reporters in Vilnius on Tuesday after holding a joint press conference with Lithuanian President Gitans Nauseda and Latvian and Estonian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins and Kaja Kallas.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also ruled out such a possibility.
Ukraine, one of the world's biggest grain exporters, is unable to use its Black Sea ports as they are being blocked by the Russian navy. The West is considering shipping Ukrainian grain by rail via other European countries, but this is difficult to do due to large grain volumes.
Lithuania has proposed building a coalition of countries to unblock the port of Odessa. In other words, Western warships would escort Ukrainian cargo ships to prevent them from being attacked by Kremlin forces.
"Russia is responsible for the fact that grain cannot be taken out of Ukraine. (...) We will try to find a solution, and the United Nations is also trying to find a solution," Scholz said in Vilnius.
If a decision to unblock the port of Odessa is taken, it should also be ensured that "Russia does not abuse such decisions", the German chancellor said.
Turkey has not allowed military ships to pass through the Bosphorus since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as this is the only waterway to the Black Sea.