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Ukraine eyes first grain exports ‘this week’

3. Ukraine Grain
Ukrainian firefighters battle a fire on a boat burning in the port of Odessa after missiles hit the port on July 23, 2022. (Photo: Odessa City Council/AFP)

KYIV — Ukraine said Monday it expects to export its first grain shipments under a UN-backed deal to lift Russia’s blockade “this week”, days after missile strikes by the Kremlin threw the accord into doubt. اضافة اعلان

Kyiv and Moscow on Friday agreed the landmark plan to release millions of tonnes of grain trapped in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in a move hailed as a major step to averting a global food crisis.

Less than 24 hours later Moscow struck the port in Odessa — one of three exit hubs designated in the agreement — sparking fury in Kyiv and heightening fears the Kremlin would not go through with the deal.

But despite the weekend attack, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov told journalists Monday that Kyiv was still working to restart exports and expected to see the agreement begin “working in the coming days”.

“We are preparing for everything to start this week,” said Kubrakov, who led Ukraine’s delegation at last week’s grain talks in Istanbul.

Ukrainian officials said the port of Chornomorsk in southwestern Ukraine would be the first to be opened and insisted on the importance of security following the strike on nearby Odessa.

“Our position is very simple. We signed an agreement with the UN and Turkey. If the sides guarantee security, the agreement will work. If they do not, it will not work,” Kubrakov said.

He said that demining will take place “exclusively” in the shipping lanes required for grain exports, while Ukrainian ships will accompany the departing convoys that will transport not only grain but also fertilizer.

Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of agricultural products, but Moscow’s invasion has severely disrupted Ukrainian wheat exports as the fighting damaged harvests and left ports blocked and mined.

Russia’s naval blockade helped send global prices soaring and sparked fears of famine as it left up to 25 million tonnes of wheat and other grains stranded in Ukraine. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has estimated the value of grain stocks to be exported under the deal at around $10 billion.

Kremlin’s shifting narrative

The Kremlin insisted Monday that its strikes on Odessa “should not affect” the Turkish-brokered push to send the grain to world markets. 

Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow’s cruise missiles hit “exclusively” military infrastructure and were “not connected with the agreement on the export of grain”.

Turkey, which helped broker the accord, said after the attack that it had received assurances from Moscow that Russian forces were not responsible.

Moscow then admitted that it had carried out the strikes, but claimed to have targeted a Ukrainian military vessel and arms delivered by Washington.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is visiting Africa on a tour aimed at bolstering Moscow’s ties in the face of growing isolation. Lavrov, who is visiting Uganda, Ethiopia, and Congo-Brazzaville, told his Egyptian counterpart on his first stop that Russia would meet grain orders.

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