Ukraine, Russia sign deal to reopen grain export ports

  • The UN and Turkey worked to broker a Ukraine-Russia export deal
  • Signing ceremony with Russia, Ukraine, UN at 1330 GMT
  • A hopeful sign of progress in alleviating the global food crisis
  • Ukraine’s Zelenskiy: Potential to turn the battlefield tide

ISTANBUL/KYIV, July 22 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine will sign an agreement on Friday to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports, Turkey and the United Nations said. relaxed.

Russia and Ukraine, which are among the world’s biggest food exporters, will send their infrastructure and defense ministers respectively to the 1330 GMT signing ceremony in Istanbul, three sources told Reuters.

Hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he expected his country’s ports to be blocked soon, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu called on Turkish and U.N. The Kremlin confirmed that it would sign the brokered deal.

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will attend the ceremony.

Russia’s Black Sea naval blockade has worsened global supply chain disruptions and, along with Western sanctions imposed on Moscow, fueled high inflation in food and energy prices since Russian forces entered Ukraine on February 24.

Full details of the deal were not immediately disclosed. But Russian state news agency TASS, citing an unnamed source, said three Ukrainian ports, including the largest export hub Odesa, would reopen.

About 20 million tons of grain are trapped in silos in Odessa, and dozens of ships are stranded by Moscow’s attack.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted Thursday that Friday’s meeting in Istanbul would mark “the first step toward resolving the current food crisis.”

The US welcomed the deal and said it was focused on holding Russia accountable for its implementation.

‘package deal

Moscow has denied responsibility for the worsening food crisis, instead blaming a chilling effect on Western sanctions that have reduced its own food and fertilizer exports and mined Ukraine’s approaches to its Black Sea ports.

The United Nations and Turkey have been brokering for two months what Guterres called a “package” deal — restoring Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports while easing Russian grain and fertilizer exports.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the European Union has proposed easing some previous restrictions to improve global food security. Moscow hoped that this would create conditions for the unhindered export of grain and fertilizer.

Diplomats said last week that details of the plan would involve Ukrainian ships guiding grain ships through cut-off harbor waters and Turkey overseeing inspections of the ships to ease Russian concerns that they could smuggle weapons to Ukraine.

Turkey, a NATO member with good relations with Russia and Ukraine, controls the straits to the Black Sea and acts as a mediator on the grain issue.

Ukraine’s eyes turn the tide

Zelenskiy met with senior commanders on Thursday to discuss arms supplies and intensifying attacks on the Russians. read more

“(We) agreed that our forces have a strong capacity to advance on the battlefield and inflict significant new losses on the aggressors,” he said in his video address.

Kyiv hopes that a gradual increase in the supply of precision, long-range Western weapons such as the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) will allow it to counter-attack and recapture lost eastern and southern territories.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that its forces destroyed four Himars systems between July 5-20. Reuters could not verify the assertion.

Ukraine has accused the Russians of intensifying missile and rocket attacks on cities in recent weeks.

Cities and towns have been devastated by Russian bombing during the conflict, with some hit by missiles from the front lines. Moscow denies it deliberately fired on civilians and says its targets are all military.

However, according to British military intelligence, Russian long-range weapons are more likely to miss their targets and cause civilian casualties, as Moscow uses long-range air-defense systems to compensate for its lack of ground-attack missiles.

Such air defense systems, which have small warheads to shoot down aircraft and missiles, would be unlikely to penetrate hard military structures on the ground and their crews would have little training for such missions, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update. On Friday.

There have been no major developments on the front since Russian forces captured the last two Ukrainian-held towns in eastern Luhansk province in late June and early July.

Russian forces are now focused on seizing all of neighboring Donetsk province on behalf of separatist proxies, which include the vast industrialized Donbas region.

In its morning update, Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian forces, backed by heavy artillery fire, continued to make gains towards the cities of Kramatorsk and Bagmut and the Vuhlehirska thermal power plant in Donetsk province, but made no significant progress on the ground.

Russia says it is carrying out a “special military operation” to militarize its neighbor and root out dangerous nationalists.

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

More than 5,000 people have been killed, more than 6 million displaced from Ukraine and 8 million internally displaced, according to the United Nations, in Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II.

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Report by Reuters Bureau; Written by Mark Heinrich; Editing by Stephen Coates and Nick MacPhee

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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