Doubt Over Grain Deal After Russian Strikes Hit Odessa Port

A woman walks as smoke rises after an attack by Russian army in Odessa. AFP

 

Russian missiles hit Ukraine’s port of Odessa Saturday, in what Kyiv called a “spit in the face” of a day-old deal between the warring sides to resume cereal exports blocked by the conflict.

The Ukrainian military said its air defences had shot down two cruise missiles but two more hit the port, threatening the landmark agreement hammered out over months of negotiations aimed at relieving a global food crisis.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman said the strike was “a spit in the face” by Russian leader Vladimir Putin against the deal brokered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations chief Antonio Guterres.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed the strikes on Odessa showed Moscow could not keep its promises.

“This proves only one thing: no matter what Russia says and promises, it will find ways not to implement it,” he said during a meeting with US lawmakers, according to a statement from the presidency.

Odessa is one of three export hubs designated in the agreement and Ukrainian officials said grain was being stored in the port at the time of the strike although the food stocks did not appear to have been hit.

Guterres — who presided over the signing ceremony on Friday — “unequivocally” condemned the attack, his deputy spokesman said, and urged all sides stick to the deal.

“These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe,” he said.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell directly blamed Russia for the strikes.

“Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of (the) Istanbul agreements is particularly reprehensible and again demonstrates Russia’s total disregard for international law and commitments,” he said.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the attack was “absolutely appalling” and “completely unwarranted”.

There was no official comment from Moscow but Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Russia had denied carrying out the attack.

“The Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and they were looking into the issue very closely,” Akar said in comments to state news agency Anadolu.

“We will continue to fulfil our responsibilities under the agreement we reached yesterday,” he added.

Regional governor Maksym Marchenko said the strikes left people injured and damaged port infrastructure in Odessa, without specifying the number or severity of the injuries.

– 20 million tonnes of wheat –

The first major accord between the countries since the February invasion of Ukraine aims to ease the “acute hunger” that the United Nations says faces an additional 47 million people because of the war.

Hostility between Moscow and Kyiv spilled over into Friday’s signing ceremony in Istanbul — delayed briefly by disputes about the display of flags around the table and Ukraine’s refusal to put its name on the same document as the Russians.

Ukraine had entered the ceremony by bluntly warning it would conduct “an immediate military response” should Russia violate the accord and attack its ships or stage an incursion around its ports.

The two sides eventually inked separate but identical agreements in the presence of Guterres and Erdogan at Istanbul’s lavish Dolmabahce Palace.

Guterres then hailed the agreement as “a beacon of hope”.

Zelensky said just after the deal was signed that responsibility for enforcing it fell to the United Nations, which along with Turkey is a co-guarantor of the agreement.

The deal includes points on running Ukrainian grain ships along safe corridors that avoid known mines in the Black Sea.

Huge quantities of wheat and other grain have been blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and the mines Kyiv laid to avert a feared amphibious assault.

Zelensky said that around 20 million tonnes of produce from last year’s harvest and the current crop would be exported under the agreement, estimating the value of Ukraine’s grain stocks at around $10 billion.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Kremlin state media he expected the deal to start working “in the next few days” although diplomats expect grain to only start fully flowing by mid-August.

– Strikes on central Ukraine –

The ornate halls of Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace felt far removed from east Ukraine’s Donbas war zone, where Saturday was another day of relentless shelling across the front.

Russia is trying to fight deeper into the eastern Donetsk region after securing full control of neighbouring Lugansk.

The US State Department on Saturday said that two Americans had died in the area, without saying whether the pair were in the country for combat purposes.

Russian missile strikes on railway infrastructure and a military airfield in the central area of Kirovograd on Saturday also killed at least three people and wounded 16 more, regional governor Andriy Raikovych said.

At least one of the dead was a serviceman, he said earlier, in a rare admission of a military casualty in a conflict in which military deaths have been closely guarded by both sides.

Russia also pursued an artillery campaign over Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, with attacks wounding one woman, the presidency said.

African Union Hails Landmark Russia-Ukraine Grain Deal

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) sit at the start of the signature ceremony of an initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports, in Istanbul, on July 22, 2022. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

 

 

The African Union on Saturday hailed a landmark deal between Ukraine and Russia that will allow Kyiv to resume exports of grain through the Black Sea and relieve a global food crisis.

Ukraine’s farms are a major source of grain for the world market, in particular in the Middle East and Africa, where food supplies are critically tight.

Cereal prices in the world’s poorest continent have surged because of the slump in exports, sharpening the impact of conflict and climate change and sparking fears of social unrest.

“The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat welcomes the signing by Russia and Ukraine of agreements,” a statement said, praising Senegalese leader and AU chair Macky Sall “for having called for the urgent need for the resumption of cereals from Ukraine and Russia to global markets as made to President Vladimir Putin during a joint AU mission to Sochi” in early June.

READ ALSO: Russia, Ukraine Seal Landmark Grain Deal To Ease Shortages

Ukraine and Russia and two of the world’s largest grain producers.

But Ukrainian mines laid across the Black Sea to avert an amphibious assault, as well as Russian warships, have blocked exports from Ukraine, leaving up to 25 million tonnes of wheat and other grain in danger of rotting in ports and silos.

Sall thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who oversaw the signing ceremony in Istanbul on Friday, as well as presidents Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

“This was the objective of the mission I led in Sochi on June 3,” Sall tweeted.

The International Rescue Committee, which helps people affected by humanitarian crises, also welcomed the accord, saying countries in East Africa relied “on Russia and Ukraine for over 90 percent of their wheat imports”.

“The lifting of these blockades will go some way in easing the extreme hunger that over 18 million people in East Africa are facing, with three million already facing catastrophic hunger conditions,” Shashwat Saraf, IRC’s East Africa emergency director, said.

AFP

Russia, Ukraine Seal Landmark Grain Deal To Ease Shortages

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attend the signing ceremony for the deal. Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP

 

 

Ukraine and Russia on Friday signed a landmark deal aimed at relieving a global food crisis caused by blocked Black Sea grain deliveries, ending months of negotiations and sending wheat prices tumbling to levels last seen before Moscow’s invasion.

The first major deal between the warring parties since the February invasion of Ukraine should help ease the “acute hunger” that the United Nations says faces an additional 47 million people because of the war.

The hostility between Moscow and Kyiv spilled over into the signing ceremony — delayed briefly by disputes about the display of flags around the table and Ukraine’s refusal to put its name on the same document as the Russians.

The two sides eventually inked separate but identical agreements in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Istanbul’s lavish Dolmabahce Palace.

“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea — a beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief,” Guterres said moments before the signing.

Erdogan — a key player in the negotiations who has good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv — said the deal would “hopefully revive the path to peace”.

But Ukraine entered the ceremony by bluntly warning that it would conduct “an immediate military response” should Russia violate the agreement and attack its ships or stage an incursion around its ports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later said the responsibility for enforcing the deal would fall to the UN, which along with Turkey is a co-guarantor of the agreement.

20 million tonnes of wheat

The agreement includes points on running Ukrainian grain ships along safe corridors that avoid known mines in the Black Sea.

Huge quantities of wheat and other grain have been blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and landmines Kyiv has laid to avert a feared amphibious assault.

Zelensky said that around 20 million tonnes of produce from last year’s harvest and the current crop would be exported under the agreement, estimating the value of Ukraine’s grain stocks at around $10 billion.

Following the deal, wheat prices tumbled to levels last seen before Russia’s invasion — even as some analysts expressed skepticism about the accord.

In Chicago, the price of wheat for delivery in September dropped 5.9 percent to $7.59 per bushel, equivalent to about 27 kilograms. Prices in Europe fell by a similar amount.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Kremlin state media after attending the signing ceremony that he expected the deal to start working “in the next few days”.

He pointed out that Russia had managed to secure a separate pledge from Washington and Brussels to lift all restrictions on its own grain and other agricultural exports.

The United States, Britain and the European Union hailed the Istanbul agreement while urging Moscow to abide by its rules.

The African Union also lauded the deal, and reiterated a call for “an immediate ceasefire” on Saturday.

Guarded hope

Diplomats expect grain to only start fully flowing by mid-August.

The four sides must first set up a joint command and control centre in Istanbul that monitors the ships’ passage and addresses disputes.

They have yet to finalise how the ships will be checked for weapons before returning empty to Ukrainian ports.

Ukrainian farmers who have been watching their silos fill up with grain that they cannot sell met the Istanbul deal with guarded hope.

“It gives some hope but you can’t believe what the Russians say,” said farmer Mykola Zaverukha.

His silos were already filled with 13,000 tonnes of grain and in danger of overflowing because this year’s harvest was beginning to come in.

“Russia is unreliable, they have shown themselves to be year after year,” he told AFP in the southern Mykolaiv region.

Global alarm about that grain has been accompanied by European fears that Russia is starting to use its stranglehold on energy exports as a geopolitical weapon in its standoff with the West.

The grain deal was signed one day after Russia’s restart of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline eased concerns in Europe of a permanent shut-off after a 10-day maintenance suspension.

Analysts say that the partial resumption of gas supplies was insufficient to ward off energy shortages in Europe this winter.

More US military aid

The ornate halls of Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace felt far removed from east Ukraine’s Donbas war zone on another day of relentless shelling across the front.

Russia is trying to fight deeper into the war zone’s Donetsk region after securing full control of neighbouring Lugansk.

On Friday, the United States signed off on another $270 million in military aid to Ukraine, including rocket systems, artillery ammunition, and armoured command posts.

Russian missile strikes on railway infrastructure and a military airfield in the central area of Kirovograd on Saturday killed at least three people and wounded nine, regional governor Andriy Raikovych said.

The Ukrainian presidency said five people were killed and 10 wounded in Russian attacks around Donetsk a day earlier.

In the Donetsk village of Chasiv Yar — hit by a strike on July 10 that killed more than 45 people — 64-year-old Lyudmila was gathering apricots near the wreckage.

“There is nothing anymore. The officials have left. We have to fend for ourselves to stay alive,” she said, giving only her first name.

AFP

Ukraine, Russia Sign Grain Export Deal With UN, Turkey

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) sit at the start of the signature ceremony of an initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports, in Istanbul, on July 22, 2022.. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

 

Ukraine and Russia on Friday signed a landmark deal aimed at relieving a global food crisis caused by blocked Black Sea grain deliveries, ending months of negotiations and sending wheat prices tumbling to levels last seen before Moscow’s invasion.

The first major deal between the warring parties since the February invasion of Ukraine should help ease the “acute hunger” that the United Nations says faces an additional 47 million people because of the war.

The hostility between Moscow and Kyiv spilled over into the signing ceremony — delayed briefly by disputes about the display of flags around the table and Ukraine’s refusal to put its name on the same document as the Russians.

The two sides eventually inked separate but identical agreements in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Istanbul’s lavish Dolmabahce Palace.

“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea — a beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief,” Guterres said moments before the signing.

Erdogan — a key player in the negotiations who has good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv — said the deal would “hopefully revive the path to peace”.

But Ukraine entered the ceremony by bluntly warning that it would conduct “an immediate military response” should Russia violate the agreement and attack its ships or stage an incursion around its ports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later said the responsibility for enforcing the deal would fall to the UN, which along with Turkey is a co-guarantor of the agreement.

20 million tonnes of wheat

The agreement includes points on running Ukrainian grain ships along safe corridors that avoid known mines in the Black Sea.

Huge quantities of wheat and other grain have been blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and landmines Kyiv has laid to avert a feared amphibious assault.

Zelensky said that around 20 million tonnes of produce from last year’s harvest and the current crop would be exported under the agreement, estimating the value of Ukraine’s grain stocks at around $10 billion.

Following the deal, wheat prices tumbled to levels last seen before Russia’s invasion — even as some analysts expressed skepticism about the accord.

In Chicago, the price of wheat for delivery in September dropped 5.9 percent to $7.59 per bushel, equivalent to about 27 kilograms. Prices in Europe fell by a similar amount.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Kremlin state media after attending the signing ceremony that he expected the deal to start working “in the next few days”.

He pointed out that Russia had managed to secure a separate pledge from Washington and Brussels to lift all restrictions on its own grain and other agricultural exports.

The United States, Britain and the European Union hailed the Istanbul agreement while urging Moscow to abide by its rules.

The African Union also lauded the deal, and reiterated a call for “an immediate ceasefire” on Saturday.

Guarded hope

Diplomats expect grain to only start fully flowing by mid-August.

The four sides must first set up a joint command and control centre in Istanbul that monitors the ships’ passage and addresses disputes.

They have yet to finalise how the ships will be checked for weapons before returning empty to Ukrainian ports.

Ukrainian farmers who have been watching their silos fill up with grain that they cannot sell met the Istanbul deal with guarded hope.

“It gives some hope but you can’t believe what the Russians say,” said farmer Mykola Zaverukha.

His silos were already filled with 13,000 tonnes of grain and in danger of overflowing because this year’s harvest was beginning to come in.

“Russia is unreliable, they have shown themselves to be year after year,” he told AFP in the southern Mykolaiv region.

Global alarm about that grain has been accompanied by European fears that Russia is starting to use its stranglehold on energy exports as a geopolitical weapon in its standoff with the West.

The grain deal was signed one day after Russia’s restart of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline eased concerns in Europe of a permanent shut-off after a 10-day maintenance suspension.

Analysts say that the partial resumption of gas supplies was insufficient to ward off energy shortages in Europe this winter.

More US military aid

The ornate halls of Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace felt far removed from east Ukraine’s Donbas war zone on another day of relentless shelling across the front.

Russia is trying to fight deeper into the war zone’s Donetsk region after securing full control of neighbouring Lugansk.

On Friday, the United States signed off on another $270 million in military aid to Ukraine, including rocket systems, artillery ammunition, and armoured command posts.

Russian missile strikes on railway infrastructure and a military airfield in the central area of Kirovograd on Saturday killed at least three people and wounded nine, regional governor Andriy Raikovych said.

The Ukrainian presidency said five people were killed and 10 wounded in Russian attacks around Donetsk a day earlier.

In the Donetsk village of Chasiv Yar — hit by a strike on July 10 that killed more than 45 people — 64-year-old Lyudmila was gathering apricots near the wreckage.

“There is nothing anymore. The officials have left. We have to fend for ourselves to stay alive,” she said, giving only her first name.

AFP