Ukraine and Russia sign agreement to reopen grain ports, Turkey says

  • The UN and Turkey agreed to conclude an export agreement between Ukraine and Russia
  • A hopeful sign of progress in alleviating the global food crisis
  • Zelenskiy of Ukraine: Potential to turn the battlefield

ISTANBUL/KIEV, July 22 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine will sign a deal on Friday to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to grain exports, Turkey said on Friday, hoping to tackle an international food crisis exacerbated by the Russian invasion.

Ukraine and Russia, one of the world’s largest food exporters, did not immediately confirm Thursday’s announcement from the Turkish presidential office. But in a video address overnight, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hinted that his country’s Black Sea ports could soon be blocked.

Russia’s naval blockade of the Black Sea has exacerbated disruptions in the global supply chain and, along with Western sanctions against Moscow, has led to high inflation in food and energy prices since Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24.

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The full details of the agreement were not immediately disclosed. It will be signed on Friday at 13:30 GMT, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said. Read more

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has the authority to sign any agreement, was on his way to Turkey. The Russian defense minister and Ukraine’s infrastructure minister are also on their way to Istanbul for the signing, sources say.

Focusing on the ability of Ukrainian troops to make progress on the battlefield, Zelensky said: “Tomorrow we expect messages from Turkey to our state – to block our ports.”

‘package deal’

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

The United Nations and Turkey have brokered what Guterres called a “package” deal for two months — restoring Ukraine’s grain exports to the Black Sea and facilitating Russia’s grain and fertilizer exports.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the EU has proposed easing some previous restrictions to boost global food security, and Moscow hopes that will create conditions for unimpeded grain and fertilizer exports.

Diplomats said last week that details of the plan include Ukrainian ships routing grain ships through closed port waters and Turkey overseeing inspections of the ships to allay Russian concerns they could smuggle weapons into Ukraine.

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

Ukraine’s eyes turn the gun

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

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

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

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

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

Towns and cities have been destroyed by Russian bombing during the conflict, some hit by missiles from the front lines. Moscow denies deliberately shooting civilians and says all targets are 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 the lack of ground-attack missiles.

Such air defense systems, which have small warheads to shoot down aircraft and missiles, are unlikely to penetrate hard military structures on the ground and their crews will 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 the eastern province of Luhansk in late June and early July.

Russian forces are now aiming to take all of neighboring Donetsk province on behalf of separatist proxies, including the vast industrialized region of Donbas.

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

Ukrainian troops shelled the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk on Friday morning, Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

Ukrainian troops also destroyed bridges before withdrawing from the Luhansk city of Lyzizansk, which is now hampering food supplies, acting mayor Andrey Skory told TASS.

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

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

According to the UN, Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II has killed more than 5,000 people, displaced more than 6 million from Ukraine and displaced 8 million internally.

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

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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