Ukrainian ports will reopen under an agreement to be signed on Friday, Turkey said


  • The UN and Turkey worked to broker a Ukrainian-Russian grain export deal
  • The hopeful sign that the global food crisis can be eased
  • Ukraine’s Zelensky sees potential for victories on the battlefield

July 22 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine will sign an agreement on Friday to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for grain exports, Turkey said, raising hopes that the international food crisis caused by the Russian invasion could be eased.

Ukraine and Russia, both among the world’s top food exporters, did not immediately confirm Thursday’s announcement from the Turkish presidency’s office. But in a late-night video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hinted that his country’s Black Sea ports could soon be unblocked.

The blockade by Russia’s Black Sea fleet has cut supplies to markets around the world and sent grain prices soaring after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into neighboring Ukraine on February 24.

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Full details of the settlement were not immediately released. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has left for Turkey, a UN spokesman said. The agreement was due to be signed on Friday at 13:30 GMT, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said. Read more

Zelensky, whose address focused mainly on the potential of Ukrainian forces to achieve success on the battlefield, said: “And tomorrow we expect news about our country from Turkey – about the unblocking of our ports.”

SANCTIONS

Moscow has denied responsibility for worsening the food crisis, blaming instead the chilling effect of Western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for mining its Black Sea ports.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington would focus on holding Moscow accountable for implementing the agreement.

The United Nations and Turkey have been working for two months to reach what Guterres called a “package” deal — to resume Black Sea grain exports from Ukraine and facilitate Russian supplies of grain and fertilizer.

Russia said on Thursday that the European Union’s latest round of sanctions would have “devastating consequences” for security and parts of the global economy.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement that the 27-nation bloc had proposed easing some previous sanctions in an effort to protect global food security, and Moscow hoped that would create conditions for unimpeded grain and fertilizer exports.

BATTLEFIELD

Zelensky met with senior commanders on Thursday to discuss arms supplies and stepping up attacks against the Russians. Read more

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

Ukraine has accused Russia of stepping up missile strikes on cities in recent weeks to terrorize its population. Moscow denies attacking civilians and says all its targets are military.

Kyiv hopes that Western weapons, especially longer-range missiles such as the US High Mobility Artillery Missile System (HIMARS), will allow it to counterattack and regain territory lost in the invasion.

There have been no major breakthroughs on the front line since Russian forces captured the last two Ukrainian-held towns in eastern Luhansk province in fighting in late June and early July. Russian forces are also concentrated in the neighboring Donetsk region.

Russia aims to completely seize all of Donetsk and Luhansk on behalf of its separatist supporters.

Ukrainian forces shelled the Russian-controlled eastern city of Donetsk on Friday morning, Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). Ukrainian troops also destroyed bridges before withdrawing from Lisichansk, which is now hampering food supplies, acting mayor of the city Andrey Skoriy told TASS.

Russia took control of the southern port city of Mariupol two months ago after a brutal battle that killed thousands and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.

The rest now face a new battle: how to survive without functioning water or sewage in a city where about 90 percent of buildings have been destroyed and where trash and human remains rot in the rubble in the summer heat.

“You light a fire, cook food, breakfast for the children,” one resident told Reuters. “In the afternoon you go to find a job or get your dry ration to feed the children dinner. Groundhog day is, as they say: you wake up and it’s always the same.’

Russia called its invasion a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of fascists, a claim the Ukrainian government and its Western allies said was a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war.

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Reports from Reuters bureaus; writing by Grant McCool; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Stephen Coates

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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