Russia and Ukraine will sign an agreement on Friday to reopen Ukraine's Black Sea ports to grain exports, Turkey said, raising hopes that an international food crisis caused by the Russian invasion could be eased.
Ukraine and Russia, both among the world's leading food exporters, did not immediately confirm the announcement made Thursday by the office of the Turkish presidency. But in a late-night video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hinted that his country's Black Sea ports could soon be open.
The blockade of Russia's Black Sea Fleet has reduced supplies to markets around the world and driven up grain prices since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to neighboring Ukraine on February 24. Full details of the deal were not immediately released. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has visited Turkey, a UN spokesman said. The deal is expected to be signed at 1:30 p.m. GMT on Friday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's office said.
Zelenskyy, whose speech mainly focused on the potential of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to make gains on the battlefield, said: "And tomorrow we also expect news from our state from Turkey - regarding the opening of our ports".
Moscow has denied responsibility for the worsening food crisis, instead blaming the chilling effect of Western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertilizer exports and Ukraine for dismantling its Black Sea ports.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington would focus on holding Moscow accountable for implementing the deal. The United Nations and Turkey have been working for two months to negotiate what António Guterres called a "package deal" - to resume Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea and facilitate Russian shipments of grain and fertilizer.
Russia said on Thursday the latest round of European Union sanctions would have "devastating consequences" for security and parts of the global economy.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement that the 27-nation bloc had offered to ease some earlier sanctions to ensure global food security and Moscow hopes this will create conditions conducive to the creation grain and fertilizer exports without hindrance.
Zelenskyi met with senior commanders on Thursday to discuss supplying weapons and stepping up attacks on the Russians.
(We) agreed that our armed forces have great potential to advance on the battlefield and inflict significant further casualties on the occupiers," Zelenskyy said in his video address. Ukraine has accused Russia of stepping up missile attacks on cities in recent weeks to terrorize the population. Moscow denies attacking civilians and says all its targets are military.
Kiev hopes that Western weapons, particularly long-range missiles such as the US High Mobility Artillery Missile System (HIMARS), will allow it to counterattack and regain territory lost during the invasion.
The main front lines have largely been frozen since Russian forces seized the last two Ukrainian-occupied cities in the eastern province of Luhansk during the fighting between late June and early July. Russian forces are also targeting the nearby Donetsk province. Russia aims to entirely conquer all of Donetsk and Luhansk in the name of its separatist proxies.
He claimed control of the southern port city of Mariupol two months ago after a brutal struggle that killed thousands and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.
Those who remain now face a new struggle: how to survive without functioning water and sanitation systems in a city where around 90% of buildings have been destroyed and rubbish and human remains rot in the rubble in the heat. summer.
“They are making a fire, they are preparing food, breakfast for the children,” a resident told Reuters. “In the afternoon, you look for a job or get your dry rations to feed the children with supper. It's groundhog day, as they say, you wake up and it's always the same. "
Russia called its invasion a "special military operation" to rid Ukraine of fascists, a claim that the Ukrainian government and its Western allies have claimed was an unfounded pretext for an unprovoked war.