Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Zelenskiy seeks stronger defence of Ukraine grains export corridor

Zelenskiy seeks stronger defence of Ukraine grains export corridor

KYIV (Reuters) - The world must respond firmly to any Russian attempts to disrupt Ukraine's grain export corridor, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as more ships were loading despite Moscow suspending its participation in a UN-brokered deal.

One of the global consequences of Russia's war on its neighbour has been food shortages and a cost of living crisis in many countries, and a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey on July 22 had provided safe passage for vessels carrying grain and other fertiliser exports.

Russia withdrew from the accord over the weekend, saying it could not guarantee safety for civilian ships because of an attack on its Black Sea fleet.

In a late Tuesday night video address, Zelenskiy said ships were still moving out of Ukrainian ports with cargoes thanks to the work of Turkey and the United Nations.

"But a reliable and long-term defence 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."

The grains deal aimed to help avert famine in poorer countries 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 fertiliser exports under the accord said on Twitter on Tuesday that he expects loaded ships to leave Ukrainian ports on Thursday. Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter that eight vessels were expected to pass through the corridor on Thursday.

Having spoken to his Russian counterpart twice in as many days, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar hoped the deal would continue, adding that he expected a response from Russia "today and tomorrow".

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.

"We will do everything we can to provide power and heat for the coming winter," Zelenskiy said. "But we must understand that Russia will do everything it can to destroy normal life."

Authorities in Kyiv were preparing more than 1,000 heating points throughout the city in case its district heating system is disabled, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.