Ukraine Official Says Iran Promises Not to Buy Grain Stolen by Russians

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says his Iranian counterpart has promised his country won't purchase any grain stolen from Ukraine as the Middle Eastern nation faces pressure not to sell military drones to Russia.

Kuleba summarized a recent phone call with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a Tweet Friday. The reported conversation between the top diplomats reflects Iran's balancing act, which is drawing closer to Moscow while calling for an end to hostilities between Russia and Ukraine.

According to Kuleba, Amir-Abdollahian expressed condolences for the victims of the Russian missile strike on the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, which killed at least 21 civilians, including three children.

"I emphasized Ukraine's position: Russia must not get any military aid from anyone," Kuleba said in the tweet. "He assured me Russia won't be able to sell stolen Ukrainian grain to Iran."

Russian Solider Near Grain Silo
Iran's foreign minister has promised not to buy any stolen Ukrainian grain from Russia. Above, a Russian serviceman guards a grain elevator in the region of Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia, on July 14, 2022, amid the Russian war on Ukraine. OLGA MALTSEVA/Getty Images

Ukraine is a major producer of wheat and other cereals and the country's officials have accused Russia of selling grain stolen from occupied areas.

The phone call between Kuleba and Amir-Abdollahian comes days after the Kremlin announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin would travel to Tehran next week.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Monday said that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to "several hundred" unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani responded to Sullivan's claim earlier this week, saying there was no drone deal with Russia. He told Newsweek that "cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation dates back to before the onset of the Ukraine war and no specific development came about recently in this regard."

The United Nations Security Council's ban on Iran's arms trade expired in 2020. U.S. officials have since warned of Iran's development of advanced missiles and drone weapon systems. Iran reportedly delivered Shahed-136 loitering munitions, also called "suicide drones," last year to its allies in Yemen's ongoing civil war.

In the lead-up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Iran was developing closer relations with Kremlin, holding naval exercises in January with Russia and China, which have also sought to strengthen ties with Iran as a potential counterbalance to the Western-led NATO alliance.

Iran is seeking to formally join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an economic security alliance headquartered in China. It's also seeking to join the BRICS coalition, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Despite Tehran and Moscow growing closer, Iran has called for diplomacy to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while blaming the conflict on U.S. military activities and America's goal of expanding NATO. Iran abstained from United Nations resolutions concerning the war in Ukraine.

Citing Iranian news sources, The Jerusalem Post reports that Abdollahian confirmed that there were no plans to provide drones to Russia.

Newsweek has reached out to the Russian government for comment.