Russia resumes Ukraine grain export deal

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Russia resumed its participation in the Black Sea grain-export deal after extracting written guarantees from Ukraine that the safe-passage corridor would be used only for grain exports.

Russia’s return to the deal came after a convoy of ships ignored President Vladimir Putin threats of attack and sailed out of Ukraine anyway. Analysts feared that Russian attacks on merchant ships would have triggered the much dreaded military response from the NATO.

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Escalation of the conflict in the Black Sea is widely seen as delicate movement towards nuclear face-off which appears to be the only remaining muscle flex in the war which has featured test of power from Russia, Belarus, Turkey, Iran, North Korea and NATO countries.  

Sips wait to sail off Black Sea with Ukrainian grain cargoes

The return to the export deal came after pressure from the United Nations; criticism by United States, UK and EU; and mediation by Turkey. The Russian pullout from the safe passage agreement brokered by the UN had returned focus on global hunger.

Despite being under heavy onslaught by a world power, Ukraine remains one of the strongest food supply sources in the world and siege on its export facilities posed threat to global food supply.

Russia’s decision was an abrupt reversal after President Vladimir Putin suspended the deal on Saturday following a strike on his naval forces off the port of Sevastopol.

The United Nations coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative welcomed Russia’s return and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to help make it happen.

Meanwhile Russia has continued to pummel Ukraine with a barrage of missile, drone and mortar attacks, bringing key social infrastructure and facilities to rubbles.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked the European Union to help restore electricity in his country, where the energy infrastructure has been damaged by a barrage of Russian missile and drone attacks.

Russian forces launched seven missile strikes and 47 air attacks over the past day, while Ukrainian troops shot-down six Shahed-136 loitering drones, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook.

 The city of Nikopol in the central Dnipropetrovsk region was shelled overnight, local authorities said on Telegram. To the east, Russia conducts offensive operations in the directions of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Novopavlivka, and Ukrainian forces repelled assaults near 12 settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions over the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s military said.

Ukraine’s first lady said her country could perish if the world gives in to fatigue with the war begun by Russia’s invasion.

“Ukrainians are ready to endure in the dark, in the cold, the most terrible things, so the tragedies we’ve seen don’t happen again,” Olena Zelenska said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on the sidelines of the annual Web Summit conference in Lisbon.

Zelenska, whose country has also endured attacks by Russian hackers and assault drones, urged caution in who gets their hands on the latest in technology.

“It can be used for murder as well as for rescue,” she said.

Erdogan said he discussed prioritizing grain exports to less-developed countries, including Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan, in a telephone call Tuesday with Putin.

“Let’s transfer the grain to these countries in the first phase,” he told the AHaber news channel in an interview Wednesday evening. “We spoke about this with Zelenskiy and Putin. We will widen our activities.”

Erdogan noted the importance of “the continuation of the grain shipment agreement” during the call, according to the statement, while also saying diplomatic efforts must be increased for a “fair solution to end the war.”

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