- The UN and Turkey worked to broker a Ukraine-Russia grain export deal
- There is hope that the global food crisis will ease
- Ukraine’s Zelensky sees potential for battlefield gains
ISTANBUL/KYIV, July 22 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine will sign a deal on Friday to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for grain exports, Turkey said, raising hopes it could ease an international food crisis worsened by Russia’s invasion.
Ukraine and Russia, among the world’s biggest food exporters, did not immediately confirm Thursday’s announcement from the Turkish presidential office. But in a late-night video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hinted that his country’s Black Sea ports could soon be blocked.
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.
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Full details of the deal were not immediately disclosed. It will be signed at 1330 GMT on Friday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said. Read more UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was visiting Turkey.
Focusing mainly on the ability of Ukrainian forces to make gains on the battlefield, Zelensky said: “Tomorrow we expect messages from Turkey for our state – about blocking our ports.”
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 Ukraine’s mining of its Black Sea ports.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington would focus on holding Moscow accountable for implementing the deal.
The United Nations and Turkey have been brokering what Guterres called a “package” deal for two months — restoring Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports while facilitating Russian grain and fertilizer exports.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the 27-nation European Union has proposed easing some previous restrictions in an effort to protect global food security, and Moscow hopes it will create conditions for unfettered exports of grain and fertilizer.
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“(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 Western weapons, especially long-range missiles such as the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), will allow it to counterattack and recapture the eastern and southern regions lost to the invasion.
Ukraine has accused the Russians of intensifying missile and rocket attacks on cities in recent weeks.
Thousands of people have died and towns and cities have been devastated by Russian bombing during the conflict, with some from the front lines being hit by missiles. 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.
Ukrainian forces 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 Lysizansk, which is now hampering food supplies, its acting mayor Andrey Skory told TASS.
Russia says it is carrying out a “special military operation” to militarize its neighbor and root out dangerous nationalists.
Kiev and the West say it is an imperialist attempt to recapture a country freed from Moscow’s rule with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
More than 5,000 people have been killed in Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II, more than 6 million have been forced to flee Ukraine and 8 million have been internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
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Report by Reuters Bureau; Written by Mark Heinrich; Editing by Stephen Coates and Nick MacPhee
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