Ukraine war live: Row over grain exports intensifies

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Scattered grain sits inside a warehouse damaged by Russian attacks in Cherkaska Lozova, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, May 28, 2022.

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Intense fighting to control Sievierodonetsk continued Tuesday, with both Russia and Ukraine making a series of claims and counter-claims about the situation on the ground. Moscow said it had “liberated” the eastern city, which is key to controlling Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, although this was soon rebuked by Kyiv who maintained they were still in control. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine appealed for more heavy weapons to counter Russia’s military offensive in the east. Allies of the country are moving to provide these sought-after arms, amid a broader international effort to get more grain out of Ukraine, yet it is taking time. 

Follow our live updates below. 

07:00

Wednesday’s key points 

    Ukrainian forces could pull back from embattled eastern city of Sievierodonetsk and now only control its outskirtsRussia and Turkey have voiced support for the creation of a safe maritime corridor in the Black Sea so Ukraine can export grain to global markets but Ukraine says Russian promise not to use safe shipping corridors to attack Odesa is not credible.Zelenskyy has said that victory will only be achieved when Russian forces are out of the ‘entire’ Ukraine, including Crimea and separatist areas. Hundreds of dead Ukrainian fighters were handed over to Kyiv by Russia. Most were killed defending the Azovstal steel mill in the southern city of Mariupol. Ukraine set a release date for its ‘book of executioners’, which will detail alleged Russian war crimes comitted in the country. Russia has repeatedly denied such allegations. 

17:33

Ukraine pushed back to outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, governor says

Ukrainian forces battling Russian troops in a key eastern city of Sievierodonetsk are on the cusp of retreat, though the regional governor insists they are still fighting “for every centimetre” of the city.

Ukrainian special forces launched a counteroffensive days ago and cleared almost half of the city, but it made no sense for them to stay when Russia started levelling the area with shelling and air strikes, Serhiy Haidai, was quoted as saying to the RBC-Ukraine media outlet.

“Our forces now again control only the outskirts of the city. But the fighting is still going on, our forces are defending Sievierodonetsk, it is impossible to say the Russians completely control the city,” he said.

Haidai added that “everything the Russian army has — artillery, mortars, tanks, aviation — all of that, they’re using in Sievierodonetsk in order to wipe the city off the face of the Earth and capture it completely,” he said.

Earlier, on the Telegram messaging app, he said Ukrainian forces were still fighting “for every centimetre of the city.”

Haidai indicated they could pull back to positions that are easier to defend. The city across the river, Lysychansk, sits on higher ground. He has previously suggested forces could have to pull back in order to avoid being surrounded.

(AP Reuters)

16:58

Turkey lacks power to guard grain exports: Ukraine official

Turkey’s effort to negotiate a deal with Russia over Ukrainian grain exports has also been dismissed by the head of the Ukrainian grain traders group.   

Ukrainian Grain Union head Serhiy Ivashchenko said “Turkey doesn’t have enough power in the Black Sea to guarantee security of cargo and Ukrainian ports.”

Ivashchenko said Ukraine would prefer if NATO ships entered the Black Sea and served as guarantors. He also said it was the Russians who have planted sea mines in the area, and it would take three to four months to remove them.

(AP)

16:40

Turkey struggles to push grain deal to avert food crisis

Turkish efforts to ease a global food crisis by negotiating safe passage for grain stuck in Black Sea ports are being met with resistance from Ukraine which says Russia is imposing unreasonable conditions and the Kremlin which says free shipment depended on an end to sanctions.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey stated that no agreement is possible without Kyiv’s involvement and accused Russia of putting forward unrealistic proposals such as checking vessels.

The ambassador, Vasyl Bodnar, told an online briefing it was important for Kyiv that Turkey continue mediating on the matter and for it to keep talking to both Kyiv and Moscow.

Following talks with his counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said discussions in Ankara were fruitful and restarting Ukrainian grain exports along a sea corridor was reasonable.

Lavrov said the onus was on Ukraine to de-mine its ports as a precondition for safe shipment.

Ukraine is worried this could make it more vulnerable to attacks from the sea.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman, Oleg Nikolenko, tweeted “Military equipment is required to protect the coastline and a navy mission to patrol the export routes in the Black Sea”.

He warned: “Russia cannot be allowed to use grain corridors to attack southern Ukraine.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian grain volumes could only be delivered to international markets if sanctions were lifted. He said there were “no substantive talks about this yet”

(Reuters)

16:05

Ukraine says ‘Russian aggression’ not Western sanctions is fuelling grain crisis

The spike in grain prices due to blocked exports, posing a risk of food crises in the world, is caused by “Russian aggression” in Ukraine and not by sanctions against Moscow, according to the head of Ukrainian diplomacy.

“The real cause of this crisis: it is Russian aggression, not sanctions,” said Dmytro Kouleba, who added he wanted to “ruin” the Russian narrative that “the cause of the world food crisis would be the sanctions”.

On Sunday, Kuleba hit out at comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron, who stated on Saturday that Russia should not be humiliated over its invasion of Ukraine.


(AFP)

15:45

Kyiv not convinced by Angela Merkel’s justifications for Germany’s handling of Putin

Kyiv says it is unconvinced by the explanations of Angela Merkel, who on Tuesday defended her approach to Ukraine and Russia during her 16 years as Germany’s leader.

In her first substantial comments since leaving office six months ago, the former German Chancellor she said had “nothing to apologise for” for having relied on diplomacy and trade to try to avoid a war in Ukraine.

She also strongly defended a decision in 2008 not to put Ukraine directly on track to join NATO, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in early April blasted as a “miscalculation.”

She suggested a stronger NATO green light for Ukraine in 2008 would have led to faster Russian aggression, with Ukraine less able to resist.

Merkel also said there was “no excuse” for Russia’s “brutal” attack on Ukraine and it was “a big mistake on Russia’s part.”

Adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, Mikhaïlo Podoliak, criticised the former chancellor for having supported the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, intended to transport Russian gas to Europe via Germany in particular.

“If Chancellor Merkel always knew that Russia was planning a war and Putin’s goal is to destroy the EU, then why build Nord Stream 2,” he wrote on Twitter.

He accused Merkel of fostering European dependence on Russian gas and oil.

In her remarks on Tuesday, Merkel said she had been aware for several years of the threat posed by Putin to European security but that it was in Germany’s interest to “find a modus vivendi with Russia”.

Germany has long practised a policy of reaching out to Russia, following the idea that trade would induce a gradual democratization of the country.

(AFP AP)

14:09

Zelenskyy: ‘We have to achieve a full de-occupation’

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said victory can only be achieved if Russia is fully out of Ukraine.

 “We have to achieve a full de-occupation of our entire territory,” Zelenskyy said in an interview with the Finacial Times on Wednesday. 

Victory means restoring “all” of Ukraine, he said. This includes Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and separatist-held areas in the east of the country. 

On the prospect of peace, Ukraine’s leader said he “simply cannot see the preconditions for ending the war.”

(Reuters)

12:45

12:25

Ukraine: blocking ports could kill millions says Italy

Rome has issued a warning Wednesday that Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports, which is preventing wheat exports, could lead to the death of millions. 

“The next few weeks will be crucial for unblocking the situation, said Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.

“We expect clear and concrete signals from Russia because blocking wheat exports means holding hostage and condemning to death millions of children, women and men,” he added. 

The head of Italy’s diplomatic service was speaking at the end of a conference on food security in Mediterranean countries.

Participants at the ministerial conference were the UN Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO) and Germany, the current president of the G7.

Ukraine, a major player in the world grain market, cannot export its crops currently blocked in its ports following the Russian invasion.

Alongside Russia, it is considered a bread basket of the world, proving one-fifth of the planet’s wheat supply. 

(AFP)

In Syria’s once-fertile northeast, wheat fields are drying to a crisp because of severe drought and low rainfall. The country is particularly vulnerable to food price rises caused by the Ukraine war. (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)11:31

Russia FM hopes Ukraine grain situation can be resolved 

Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has said that he hopes the situation with exporting grain from Ukraine can be resolved, during a press conference in Turkey. 

However, he added Kyiv must first de-mine the waters around Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea. 

Speaking in Ankara, where he was visiting his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Lavrov said no action was needed by Russia because it had already made the necessary commitments.

“We state daily that we’re ready to guarantee the safety of vessels leaving Ukrainian ports and heading for the Bosphorus gulf,” he said. “We’re ready to do that in cooperation with our Turkish colleagues.

“To solve the problem, the only thing needed is for the Ukrainians to let vessels out of their ports, either by demining them or by marking out safe corridors, nothing more is required,” Lavrov added. 

According to Reuters, Cavusoglu said a UN proposal to open a grain-export corridor was reasonable and requires more talks with all sides to ensure ships would be safe.

The inability of Ukraine to export grain, amid its on-going war with Russia and a Russian blockade, is aggravating global food prices, which is worsening food security for millions around the world. 

Ukraine has accused Russia of the theft of its grain, which it has begun exporting out of ports that have fallen under occupation since Russia started its latest invasion of Ukraine in February.

(Reuters)

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