August 19, 2022

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Ukraine, Russia sign deal to reopen grain export ports as war rages

Ukraine, Russia sign deal to reopen grain export ports as war rages

  • The United Nations and Turkey worked to broker an export deal between Ukraine and Russia
  • A sign of hope for progress towards alleviating the global food crisis
  • Russia says it “will not benefit” from removing mines from the ports
  • Russia and Ukraine sign agreement as war rages in eastern Ukraine
  • Zelensky in Ukraine: The possibility of turning the tide on the battlefield

ISTANBUL/Kyiv (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine signed a landmark agreement on Friday to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for grain exports, raising hopes that a global food crisis exacerbated by Russia’s invasion could be eased.

The agreement capped two months of talks brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, a NATO member that has good relations with both Russia and Ukraine and controls the straits leading to the Black Sea.

Speaking at the signing ceremony in Istanbul, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the deal opens the way for significant volumes of commercial food exports from three major Ukrainian ports – Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.

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“Today there is a beacon on the Black Sea. A beacon of hope … and possibility … and relief in a world that needs it more than ever,” Guterres told the crowd.

But fighting has raged relentlessly in eastern Ukraine, highlighting the hostility and mistrust driving Europe’s worst conflict since World War II, with representatives of Russia and Ukraine refraining from sitting at one table and avoiding shaking hands at the ceremony.

The blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russian Black Sea fleet, trapping tens of millions of tons of grain in silos and stranding many ships, has exacerbated global supply chain bottlenecks and, combined with sweeping Western sanctions, has fueled accelerating inflation in food and energy prices. around the world. Globalism.

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Moscow has denied responsibility for the worsening food crisis, blaming sanctions for slowing its exports of food and fertilizer, and Ukraine for mining entrances to its Black Sea ports.

A UN official said a separate agreement signed on Friday would facilitate such Russian exports and that the United Nations welcomed clarifications from the United States and the European Union that their sanctions would not apply to their shipment.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Western countries would watch closely to ensure the deal did not put Ukraine at risk of further Russian invasion. Read more

“The G7 is working closely with partners like Turkey and others to ensure that we can get these grains out of Ukraine and into places around the world where they are needed without jeopardizing Ukraine’s sovereignty and protection,” Trudeau said.

safe passage

Speaking in Istanbul, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Moscow would not seek to benefit from demining at Ukrainian ports.

“Russia has taken upon itself the obligations clearly stipulated in this document. We will not take advantage of the fact that the ports will be cleared and opened,” Shoigu told Rossiya 24 state TV.

Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure, Oleksandr Kobrakov, said Kyiv did not see the danger of Russian ships being attacked through Ukrainian ports. Read more

Senior UN officials told reporters on Friday that the deal was expected to be fully operational within a few weeks and to restore grain shipments from the three reopened ports to pre-war levels of five million tons per month. Read more

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They said safe passage to and from the ports would be guaranteed in what one official called a “virtual ceasefire” for the ships and facilities covered, although the word “ceasefire” was not included in the text of the agreement.

They said that although Ukraine had mined nearby sea areas as part of its defenses against the five-month-old Russian invasion, Ukrainian pilots would guide ships along safe channels in its territorial waters.

UN officials said the ships, monitored by a joint coordination center based in Istanbul, would then move the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait and destined for world markets.

The overall goal is to help avert starvation among tens of millions of people in poor nations by pumping more wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizer and other products into global markets including for humanitarian needs, in part at lower prices.

The United States welcomed the agreement and said it was focusing on holding Russia accountable for its implementation.

Turn the tide of the battlefield?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with top commanders on Thursday and said Kyiv’s forces, now increasingly armed with Western precision and longer-range weapons, have strong potential to turn the tide on the battlefield.

A senior US defense official said, Friday, that the United States believes that the Russian army is incurring hundreds of casualties every day. The official said Washington also believes Ukraine has destroyed more than 100 “high-value” Russian targets in Ukraine, including command posts and air defense sites.

There have been no major frontline breakthroughs since Russian forces captured the last two Ukrainian-held cities in the eastern Luhansk province in late June and early July.

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Russian forces are now focused on capturing all of the neighboring Donetsk Province on behalf of the separatist proxies who have declared two separate mini-states covering the wider Donbass industrial region.

Kyiv hopes that its gradually increasing supply of Western weapons, such as the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), will allow it to reclaim lost territories.

On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces destroyed four HYMARS systems from July 5-20. Kyiv denied the allegations, describing them as “fake” aimed at draining Western support for Ukraine. Reuters was unable to verify these assertions. Read more

Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor and rid it of dangerous nationalists.

Kyiv and the West say Russia is waging an imperialist campaign to restore its pro-Western neighbour, which was freed from Moscow’s rule when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Writing by Mark Heinrich and Toby Chopra; Editing by Stephen Coates, Nick McPhee, and William McLean

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