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Turkish president urges Vladimir Putin to reopen Ukraine grain talks | Ukraine


Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has urged Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to reopen talks on the failed deal he brokered last summer to safeguard Ukrainian grain exports to the world after Russia’s latest night strikes destroyed ports and supplies in the Odesa region.

Fires raged at the sites of important infrastructure in the southern area on Wednesday morning while Ukraine’s defence ministry said a grain silo in Izmail, an inland port across the Danube River from Romania, had been badly damaged.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the strikes on Ukraine’s means to export grain was an attack on all.

“The world must respond,” Ukraine’s president said. “When civilian ports are targeted, when terrorists deliberately destroy even [grain] elevators, this is a threat to everyone on all continents. Russia can and should be stopped.”

After the drone strikes, Erdoğan, in a phone call to the Kremlin, invited Russia’s president to engage in fresh talks over the agreement, with a spokesperson saying the Turkish leader had “expressed the importance of refraining from steps that could escalate tensions during the Russia-Ukraine war, emphasising the significance of the Black Sea initiative, which he described as a bridge of peace”.

In Moscow, Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the Russian leader needed movement on the barriers to the free export of Russian grain and fertiliser, imposed by the restrictions on payments as part of sanctions against the Kremlin.

He said: “Russia – and president Putin has said this 100 times already – is ready to immediately return to the deal itself … just the deal must be implemented in the part that concerns the Russian Federation. So far this has not been done, as you know. The west imposed sanctions against Russia without taking into account the needs of the world community for food. The UN general secretariat is well aware of this.”

The shooting down of 23 Iranian-Shahed drones on Tuesday night, including 10 fired at Ukraine’s capital, highlighted the crucial role of Ukraine’s air defences, in particular the patriot systems donated by the US, but the gaps elsewhere in the country are becoming clearer.

Russia has offered free grain to African countries while targeting Ukraine’s capacity to store and export foodstuffs since pulling out of the deal brokered by Turkey and the UN to ensure that food and fertiliser from Ukraine, one of the major breadbaskets of the world, could leave its southern ports.

The latest attacks on ports and industrial infrastructure – in which Ukrainian officials said 40,000 tonnes of grain were destroyed – is seemingly designed to kill off the possibility of any future deal with Kyiv on grain supply, and was condemned by the US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, who said Russia had no empathy for people around the world reliant on Ukrainian products.

She tweeted: “Homes. Ports. Grain silos. Historic buildings. Men. Women. Children. Round-the-clock and intensifying Russian strikes on Kryvyi Rih, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson make it clear once again Russia has no desire for peace, no thought for civilian safety, and no regard for people around the world who rely on food from Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office released pictures showing a war crimes investigator outside a ruined building in Izmail, where there was evidence of at least two damaged silos from which wheat could be seen spilling out.

The port, across the river from Romania, a Nato member, has served as the main alternative route out of Ukraine for grain exports since mid-July, when Russia reimposed its de facto blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Ukraine’s Danube River ports accounted for about a quarter of grain exports before Russia pulled out of the deal and have since become the main route out.

“The enemy … is trying to destroy Ukrainian grain, attacking industrial and port infrastructure. Unfortunately, there are hits, unfortunately the silo was damaged, and fires broke out at the site,” Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian volunteer army south, part of Ukraine’s armed forces, said in a video statement. “Russia is trying to cut Ukraine out of the future grain agreement and, most importantly, to strategically displace our country from the global food market”.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a statement: “Another elevator in the port of Izmail, Odesa region, was damaged by Russians. Ukrainian grain has the potential to feed millions of people worldwide.”

The state-owned media outlet RIA claimed that Russia’s attacks had struck military targets including an oil terminal, a naval repair yard and a building hosting foreign military forces.

In Kyiv, Sergiy Popko, head of the city military administration, said all the drones targeted at the capital on Tuesday night had been intercepted but that falling debris had damaged some non-residential buildings.

He said: “Groups of drones entered Kyiv simultaneously from several directions. However, all air targets – more than 10 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – were detected and destroyed in time by the forces and means of air defence.”

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said no one had been killed or wounded in the attack but that “parts of a drone fell on the playground” in the Golosiivsky district.

Putin, speaking at a Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg last week, offered African leaders attending the event the gift of thousands of tonnes of grain.

“We will be ready to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea with 25-50,000 tonnes of free grain each in the next three to four months,” Putin told the summit, as participants applauded. Others in need, such as Sudan and Chad, were not mentioned. Global wheat prices have increased by about 10% in the past two weeks.

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said that a “handful” of donations from the Kremlin will not fix the problem of a dearth of global supply since Russia pulled out of the grain deal.

Meanwhile, a 25-year-old doctor, Dmytro Bilyi, was killed on his first day at Kherson hospital in a strike on the city that injured four other medical workers.



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