Monday, November 28

Zelenskiy demands firmer defense of Ukraine grains export corridor


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KYIV/MYKOLAIV — A long-term defense is needed for Ukraine’s grain export corridor and the world must respond firmly to any Russian attempts to disrupt it, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as more ships were loading despite Moscow suspending its participation in a UN-brokered deal.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, had withdrawn from the accord over the weekend, saying it could not guarantee safety for civilian ships because of an attack on its Black Sea fleet.

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In a late Tuesday night video address, Zelenskiy said ships were moving out of Ukrainian ports with cargoes thanks to the work of Turkey and the United Nations, the two main brokers of the July 22 grain export agreement.

“But a reliable and long-term defense is needed for the grain corridor,” Zelenskiy said.

“Russia must clearly be made aware that it will receive a tough response from the world to any steps to disrupt our food exports,” Zelenskiy said. “At issue here clearly are the lives of tens of millions of people.”

Eight vessels with agricultural products were expected to pass through the corridor on Thursday, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter.

One of the global consequences of Russia’s war on its neighbor has been food shortages and a cost of living crisis in many countries.

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The grains deal aimed to help avert famine by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil and fertilizer into world markets and to ease a dramatic rise in prices. It targeted the pre-war level of 5 million metric tonnes exported from Ukraine each month.

The UN coordinator for grain and fertilizer exports under the accord said on Twitter on Tuesday that he expects loaded ships to leave Ukrainian ports on Thursday.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar also said there was progress and he hoped the deal would continue.

“We are evaluating the available information that this agreement will continue,” Akar said in a statement after two phone calls in as many days with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu. A response from Russia was expected “today and tomorrow,” he said.

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More than 9.5 million tonnes of corn, wheat, sunflower products, barley, rapeseed and soy have been exported under the agreement. A Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) with headquarters in Istanbul – made up of UN, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials – agrees on the movement of ships and inspects the vessels.

POWER CUTS

Russia fired missiles at Ukrainian cities including the capital Kyiv in what President Vladimir Putin called retaliation for an attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet over the weekend. Ukraine said it shot most of those missiles down, but some had hit power stations, knocking out electricity and water supplies.

Nine regions were experiencing power cuts to stabilize the grid, and “energy specialists and local authorities are doing everything to shorten the power cuts,” Zelenskiy said on Tuesday night.

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The United States on Tuesday denounced the attacks, saying about 100 missiles had been fired on Monday and Tuesday.

“With temperatures dropping, these Russian attacks aimed at exacerbating human suffering are particularly heinous,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at a daily briefing. Russia denies targeting civilians.

KHERSON EVACUATIONS

Russia told civilians on Tuesday to leave an area along the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in the Ukrainian province of Kherson, a major extension of an evacuation order that Kyiv says amounts to the forced depopulation of occupied territory.

Russia had previously ordered civilians out of a pocket it controls on the west bank of the river, where Ukrainian forces have been advancing for weeks to capture the city of Kherson in what would be a strategic prize in the war.

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Russian-installed officials said on Tuesday they were extending that order to a 15-km (9-mile) buffer zone along the east bank too. Ukraine says the evacuations include forced deportations from occupied territory, a war crime.

The mouth of the Dnipro has become one of the most consequential frontlines in the war.

Seven towns on the east bank would be evacuated, comprising the main populated settlements along that stretch of the river, Vladimir Saldo, Russian-installed head of occupied Kherson province, said in a video message.

Russian-installed authorities in the Kherson region also said an obligatory evacuation of Kakhovka district, close to the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric station, was to begin on Nov. 6.

Moscow has accused Kyiv of planning to use a so-called “dirty bomb” to spread radiation, or to blow up a dam to flood towns and villages in Kherson province. Kyiv says accusations it would use such tactics on its own territory are absurd, but that Russia might be planning such actions itself to blame Ukraine.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Peter Graff, Gareth Jones and Grant McCool; Editing by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich)

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