Breakthrough at Black Sea grain exports talks as heavy shelling continues

Jul 14, 2022: According to a report by Reuters, Ukraine, the United Nations and Turkey hailed progress at talks aiming to resume Black Sea grain exports blocked by Russia and ease the risk of starvation faced by millions.

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday an agreement would be signed next week. Ankara will ensure the safety of shipments in transit and the parties will jointly check grain cargoes in ports, he added.

But UN chief Antonio Guterres said more work was needed before a deal was finalised.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared optimistic in late-night comments: “The Ukrainian delegation has reported to me that there is progress. In the coming days we will agree on the details with the U.N. secretary general.”

Turkey and Ukraine said a joint coordination centre with Russia and the United Nations would be set up.

“Its task will be to carry out general monitoring and coordination of safe navigation in the Black Sea,” Zelenskyy’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said on Twitter.

Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately offer comment.

Apart from being major global wheat suppliers, Russia is also a large fertilizer exporter and Ukraine a significant producer of corn and sunflower oil.

A deal is seen as vital for food security, notably among developing nations, and for stabilising markets.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said there had been sustained shelling across several cities.

Russian forces targeted a number of civilian facilities in the southern city of Mykolaiv on Thursday, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said on the messaging app Telegram. Rescuers and emergency teams are already working on the ground, he added.

A Russian strike destroyed a school in Donbas on Wednesday. No casualties were reported.

Russian media reported Ukrainian armed forces launched a fresh missile attack in a strategically important Russian-held southern area of Kherson that Kyiv is hoping to retake.

RIA news agency quoted the Russian-backed administration of Kherson region as saying Russian air defenses shot down five missiles fired at the town of Nova Kakhovka, while the debris of two of the missiles fell near a factory.

Moscow says Ukraine refuses to remove mines that it scattered around its coastline to protect itself from Russia’s attack and that threaten shipping.

The Kremlin also says Western sanctions make it harder for Russia to fund and insure its own maritime freight services.

Before progress in grain export talks was announced, diplomats said the plan under discussion included Ukrainian vessels guiding grain ships through mined port waters; Russia agreeing to a truce while shipments move; and Turkey – supported by the United Nations – inspecting ships to allay Russian fears of weapons smuggling.

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