Ukraine’s ports are set to reopen under the deal to be signed on Friday, Turkey says

  • The United Nations and Turkey worked to broker a grain export deal between Ukraine and Russia
  • Hopeful sign that the global food crisis could be alleviated
  • Ukraine’s Zelenskiy sees potential for battlefield wins

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 an international food crisis caused by the Russian invasion could be alleviated.

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

The blockade by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has reduced supplies to markets around the world and pushed up grain prices since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into neighboring Ukraine on February 24.

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Full details of the agreement were not released immediately. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to Turkey, a UN spokesman said. The deal should be signed at 13:30 GMT on Friday, the office of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said. Continue reading

Zelenskyy, whose speech mainly focused on the potential of Ukrainian armed forces to make gains on the battlefield, said: “And tomorrow we also expect news for our state from Turkey – regarding the opening of our ports.”

SANCTIONS

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

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

The United Nations and Turkey have been working for two months to negotiate what Guterres called a “package deal” – to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports and ease Russian grain and fertilizer shipments.

Russia said Thursday the European Union’s latest round of sanctions will 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 has proposed easing some previous sanctions to ensure global food security and Moscow hopes this will create conditions for unhindered grain and fertilizer exports would create.

BATTLEFIELD

Zelenskyi met with senior commanders on Thursday to discuss arms supplies and stepping up attacks on Russians. Continue reading

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

Ukraine has accused Russia of stepping up rocket attacks on cities in recent weeks to terrorize the population. Moscow denies attacks on civilians and says all of its targets are military in nature.

Kyiv hopes that Western weapons, particularly long-range missiles like the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), will allow it to counterattack and retake territory lost in the invasion.

The main front lines have largely been frozen since Russian forces took the last two Ukrainian-held cities in the eastern province of Lugansk in fighting in late June and early July. Russian forces are also concentrated in neighboring Donetsk province.

Russia aims to fully conquer all of Donetsk and Luhansk in the name of its separatist proxies.

It claimed control of the southern port city of Mariupol two months ago after a brutal struggle that killed thousands and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.

Those left behind now face a new struggle: how to survive without functioning water and sanitation systems in a city where around 90 percent of the buildings have been destroyed and garbage and human remains are left to rot in the rubble in the summer heat.

“They make a fire, they cook food, breakfast for the kids,” a resident told Reuters. “In the afternoon you look for some work or get your dry ration to feed the children’s supper.

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

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Reporting by Reuters bureaus; writing by Grant McCool; Edited by Cynthia Osterman and Stephen Coates

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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