A Ukrainian farmer shows wheat grains. Photo: Reuters
Ukraine assured this Monday that it expects resume “this week” the export of grain across the Black Sea for the first time in five months of war, despite the fact that Russia bombed the port of Odessavital for the shipment of grain, as established in the historic agreement signed between kyiv and Moscow under the auspices of the UN.
“We hope that the agreement will start working in the next few days … We are preparing everything to start this week,” Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov told a press conference. And he risked a date: the export of Ukrainian grain will begin on July 27 from the port of Chornomorsk.
According to the minister, the main obstacle to the resumption of exports is the risk of Russian bombinglike the attack on Saturday at the Odessa port on the Black Sea.
Russia said on Sunday it destroyed a military building and Western weapons in the vital grain export port.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov reiterated that the attacks they were just “aimed at military infrastructure” and that “they had nothing to do with the infrastructure used to implement the grain export agreement”.
“That is why it cannot and must not hinder the start of the charging process,” he added.
The agreement, signed under the auspices of the UN, provides for “safe corridors” so that merchant ships can pass through the Black Sea and must allow the export of between 20 and 25 million tons of wheat stuck in Ukraine.
Grain stored in Zhurivka, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters
It will also have to facilitate Russian agricultural shipments as well help relieve hunger which, according to the UN, are faced by 345 million people worldwide.
Kubrakov asked both Turkey and the United Nations, guarantors of the agreement, to guarantee the safety of Ukrainian convoys. “If the parties do not guarantee safety, that will not work“he warned.
Ukraine and Russia are responsible for approx 30% of world grain exports. The conflict, which began with the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, has particularly affected the African continent, where grain prices have soared.
The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, is currently on tour in several African countries to reassure the countries dependent on Ukrainian wheat. After meeting his Arab League comrades on Sunday, he went to Congo on Monday.
The Istanbul Agreement hasn’t stopped Russia from continuing to bomb the front line over the weekend as the conflict enters its sixth month.
The state of war
According to the Ukrainian general staff, the bombing continued early Monday morning in Mykolaiv (south), in the Kherson region (south), in the Kharkov region (northeast) and in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
In the Kherson region, mostly occupied by Russian troops, “we can talk a roll on the ground. The Ukrainian armed forces have had the upper hand in the recent operations, “said the advisor to the head of the Ukrainian regional military administration Sergiy Khan on Sunday.
“We can say that we are passing from defensive to counter-offensive action“, he added, underlining that the region will be” definitely liberated “by September.
The city of Kherson fell to Russian troops on 3 March. It was the first major city to fall in Moscow since the invasion began and is the gateway to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
The city of Kherson fell to Russian troops on 3 March. Photo: AFP
In this context, the Ukrainian President, Volodimir Zelenski, in his traditional televised speech invited his citizens to remain “united and work together for victory”, before “celebrating Ukraine’s sovereignty day for the first time,” on July 28“.
“Even the occupiers admit that we will win. We hear it in their conversations, all the time, in what they say to their loved ones when they contact them,” added the Ukrainian leader.
For his part, the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, described the invasion as a war against the unity of Europe.
“We must not let ourselves be divided, we must not let the great work of a united Europe that we have started in a promising way,” he said in a speech on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the UK has agreed with Ukraine to host the next edition of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2023.
kyiv won this year’s competition, but due to the conflict it will not be “possible to host the event,” British culture minister Nadine Dorries said in a statement.
Ukraine had initially denounced the decision to withdraw the reception of the next edition, asking for further negotiations.