June 1, 2023

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Putin calls for review of Ukraine grain deal, accuses West of deception

Putin calls for review of Ukraine grain deal, accuses West of deception
  • Putin accuses Kyiv and the West of violating the grain deal
  • He says a lot of grain goes to the European Union, not the poor countries
  • He says he wants to discuss changing the terms of the deal
  • Planning to talk to the Turkish President about this soon

Kyiv (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he wanted to discuss reopening a United Nations-brokered deal allowing Ukraine to export its grain through the Black Sea, after accusing Kyiv and the West of using it to deceive developing countries and Russia. .

Putin’s criticism, who claimed the deal was moving grain, fertilizer and other foodstuffs to the EU and Turkey at the expense of poorer countries, is likely to raise concerns that the agreement could collapse if it is not successfully renegotiated.

Ukraine, whose ports have been blockaded by Russia since its invasion in February, said the terms of the agreement were strictly adhered to and there were no grounds for renegotiating it.

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The agreement, facilitated by the United Nations and Turkey in July, created a protected export corridor across the Black Sea for Ukrainian grain after Kyiv lost access to the main export route when Russia attacked Ukraine by land, air and sea.

The agreement, designed to help ease global food prices by increasing supplies of grain and oilseeds, was the only diplomatic breakthrough between Moscow and Kiev in more than six months of the war.

Moscow said at the time that one of the main reasons for signing the agreement was its desire to help developing countries avoid food shortages.

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But Putin said on Wednesday that Ukraine and the West do not respect its terms and that most of the grain goes to the European Union, not to poor countries, something the Russian president said would have to change if he called it an “unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe”. “It should have been avoided.

“I met the leaders of the African Union and the leaders of African countries, and I promised them that we will do everything possible to ensure their interests and facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain,” Putin said at an economic forum in Russia’s Far East region.

But if shipments to Turkey as an intermediary country were excluded, he said that only two out of 87 shipments took place under the United Nations World Food Programme, which represents only 60,000 tons or 3% of the total 2 million tons exported so far.

“We respect agreements. (But) it turns out… that they (the West) have corrupted us royally and not only us but the poorest countries whose interests were a pretext for doing all this.”

There were nearly 70 ships stranded in Ukraine when Russia invaded in February, some of them already loaded with grain, with contracts already signed. Some of those contracted shipments were the first to be transported.

Putin spoke of the possibility of restricting grain and food exports to the European Union and promised to discuss the matter with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped broker the original deal.

Other complaints

A Ukrainian presidential adviser responded by saying that Russia had no reasons to revise the historic agreement and that the terms of the wartime agreement were being strictly adhered to.

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“I think that such unexpected and groundless statements indicate an attempt to find new aggressive talking points to influence world public opinion and, above all, to put pressure on the United Nations,” said Mikhailo Podolak, the chancellor. Read more

Presidential economic adviser Ole Ustenko said in July that Ukraine hoped to export 60 million tons of grain in eight to nine months, and warned that those exports could take up to 24 months if the ports were not working properly.

According to the United Nations, 88 ships have either sailed or are scheduled to sail from Ukraine under the agreement so far, and of those two ships were WFP ships – one of which went to Djibouti and the other to Yemen.

Of those 88 ships, most of the grain – 368,407 tons – has gone or is due to go to Turkey. About 757,697 tons in total are listed as going to EU members although some shipments also go to other countries including China, India, Iran, Egypt and Sudan.

Putin has complained that another part of the deal aimed at easing restrictions on Russian food exporters and shippers has also not been implemented.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also questioned the agreement the day before, accusing Western countries of failing to honor mutual pledges to help facilitate Moscow’s shipments. Read more

The success of the battle in Ukraine?

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials remained cautious about how successful the counterattack would be on the battlefield.

“A counter-attack is underway … and our forces are achieving some success. Let’s leave it at that,” Luhansk region governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian television, without naming locations.

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But an official in the pro-Moscow Donetsk People’s Republic on Tuesday gave more details and said there was fighting in Balaklya, an eastern town of 27,000 located between Russia-controlled Kharkiv and Izyum, a city with a major railway hub. Moscow uses it to supply its forces.

“Today, after a lengthy artillery preparation … the Ukrainian armed forces began an attack on Balaklya …,” Daniil Bezsonov said on Telegram, adding that if the town was lost, Russian forces in Izyum would be vulnerable on its northwest side.

“At this time, Palaklia is in practical siege and within range of Ukrainian artillery fire. All interventions are cut off by fire,” he said.

Russia says it has repelled an attack in the south and has not announced any territorial losses.

Reuters was unable to independently verify these battlefield accounts.

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Reporting by Reuters. Written by Andrew Osborne; Editing by Philippa Fletcher

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