- The United Nations and Turkey worked to broker an export deal between Ukraine and Russia
- Signing ceremony with Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations at 1330 GMT
- A hopeful sign of progress towards alleviating the global food crisis
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ISTANBUL/Kyiv (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine will sign a deal on Friday to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for grain exports, Turkey and the United Nations said, raising hopes that a global food crisis exacerbated by Russia’s invasion could be. loosen up.
Three sources told Reuters that Russia and Ukraine, which are among the world’s largest food exporters, will send their infrastructure and defense ministers respectively for a signing ceremony at 1330 GMT in Istanbul.
The Kremlin confirmed that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will sign the Turkish-United Nations agreement, hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he expects to open his country’s ports soon.
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The ceremony is scheduled to be attended by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The blockade by the Russian Black Sea Fleet has exacerbated global supply chain turmoil and, combined with Western sanctions against Moscow, has led to soaring food and energy inflation since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Full details of the agreement were not immediately disclosed. But the Russian state news agency TASS, citing an unnamed source, said that three Ukrainian ports, including Odessa’s largest export hub, will be reopened.
About 20 million tons of grain stuck in silos in Odessa, and dozens of ships were stranded by the Moscow attack.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter on Thursday that Friday’s meeting in Istanbul would represent “the first step in resolving the current food crisis”.
The United States welcomed the agreement and said it was focusing on holding Russia accountable for its implementation.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the worsening food crisis, blaming instead the chilling effect of Western sanctions for slowing its exports of food and fertilizer, and Ukraine for mining its Black Sea ports.
The United Nations and Turkey have been working for two months to broker what Guterres called a “comprehensive” deal – to restore Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports while facilitating shipments of Russian grain and fertilizer.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the European Union had proposed easing some previous sanctions to support global food security. Moscow hoped that this would create conditions for the unimpeded export of grain and fertilizer.
Diplomats said last week that details of the plan included Ukrainian ships guiding grain ships through mined port waters, with Turkey overseeing ship inspections to allay Russian concerns about possible arms smuggling into Ukraine.
Turkey, a NATO member with good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, controls the straits to the Black Sea and has acted as a mediator on the grain issue.
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“(We) agreed that our forces have strong capabilities to advance on the battlefield and inflict significant new losses on the occupiers,” he said in his video address.
Kyiv hopes that gradually increasing supplies of Western long-range weapons, such as the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), will allow it to counterattack and reclaim lost eastern and southern territories.
On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces destroyed four HYMARS systems from July 5-20. Reuters was unable to verify this assertion.
Ukraine has accused the Russians of intensifying missile and missile strikes on cities in recent weeks in a deliberate attempt to terrorize its residents.
Cities and towns were devastated by Russian bombing during the conflict, with some far from the front lines being hit by missiles. Moscow denies deliberately shooting civilians and says all of its targets are military.
However, there is a high chance that Russian long-range weapons will lose their intended targets and cause civilian casualties because Moscow is increasingly using long-range air defense systems to make up for the shortfall in ground-attack missiles, according to British military intelligence.
The British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update that these air defense systems, equipped with smaller warheads to shoot down planes and missiles, are unlikely to be able to penetrate fortified military structures on the ground and that their crews will receive little training for such missions. Friday.
There have been no major frontline breakthroughs since Russian forces captured the last two Ukrainian-held cities in the eastern Luhansk province in late June and early July.
Russian forces are now focused on capturing all of the neighboring Donetsk Province on behalf of the separatist proxies who have declared two separate mini-states covering the wider Donbass industrial region.
In a morning update, the Ukrainian General Staff said that Russian forces backed by heavy artillery fire continued to push for gains towards the cities of Kramatorsk and Bakhmut and the Vohlherska Thermal Power Plant in Donetsk Province, but made no significant progress on the ground.
Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor and rid it of dangerous nationalists.
Kyiv and the West say Russia is waging an imperialist campaign to restore its pro-Western neighbour, which was freed from Moscow’s rule when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Europe’s largest conflict since World War II has killed more than 5,000 people, driven more than six million from Ukraine and displaced eight million internally, according to the United Nations.
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Reporting by Reuters offices. Writing by Mark Heinrich; Editing by Stephen Coates and Nick McPhee
Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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