July 2, 2022

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Russia says two Ukrainian ports are ready to ship grain, but Kyiv must remove mines from the coast

Russia says two Ukrainian ports are ready to ship grain, but Kyiv must remove mines from the coast

  • Russia has seized large parts of the Ukrainian coast
  • Moscow says sanctions, Kyiv is to blame for the grain shortage
  • Ukraine accused Russia of stealing grain supplies
  • The Kremlin says grain ships should be checked for weapons

LONDON (Reuters) – Russia said on Tuesday that two major Ukrainian ports on the Sea of ​​Azov seized by Russian forces were ready to resume grain shipments, but the Kremlin said Kyiv still needed to clear the ports to its ports. take place.

Russia has controlled large parts of the Ukrainian coast in nearly 15 weeks of war, and its warships control the Black and Azov seas, hampering Ukrainian agricultural exports and raising grain prices.

Ukraine and the West accuse Moscow of arming food supplies. Russia blames the situation on what it says are Ukrainian mines and on international sanctions against its economy.

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Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol, which were destroyed after a three-month Russian siege, had resumed operations.

“The demining from the Mariupol port has been completed. It is operating normally, and it has received its first cargo ships,” Shoigu said in televised statements.

The Sea of ​​Azov is shallower than the Black Sea and its ports are accessible only to small ships. The main port of Odessa in Ukraine remains closed.

More than 20 million tons of grain are stuck in Ukraine waiting to be shipped, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said this could rise to 75 million by the fall.

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The cargo ship RM 3 is loaded with steel coils in the port of Mariupol, during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern city of Mariupol, Ukraine, May 30, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermoshenko

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Ukraine still needed to demine its coast in order for the grain to be exported.

“This will allow the ships, once they have been checked by our military to ensure they are not carrying any weapons, to enter the ports and load grain and with our help, to go into international waters,” he said.

Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing vital grain supplies – as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called it “credible” – while Moscow says Western sanctions are to blame for the situation, which has threatened to create a global food crisis. Read more

The United Nations is working on plans with Kyiv and Moscow on how to resume grain exports from Ukrainian ports, with the possibility that Turkey will be willing to provide naval escorts to ensure safe passage out of the Black Sea. Read more

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to visit Turkey on Wednesday to discuss the proposals.

Shoigu also said Russian forces had restored rail traffic through southern and eastern Ukraine and had begun transporting goods to Mariupol, Berdyansk and Kherson on 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of reopened tracks.

The creation of the so-called “land corridor” between Russia and Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, has been a major part of Russia’s strategy since the start of its offensive.

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Reported by Reuters

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