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Russia and Ukraine are trying to solve the grain crisis in Turkey

#Russia #Ukraine #solve #grain #crisis #Turkey

Russia and Ukraine met with UN officials and Turkey on Wednesday to break a months-long impasse on grain exports that has pushed up food prices and left millions starving.

The high-stakes meeting in Istanbul came as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showed no sign of abating and the sides engaged in a furious long-range battle that razed cities and left people speechless.

Ukrainian officials said at least five people were killed in Russian shelling of the region around the Black Sea port city of Mykolaiv.

“You can’t run away from war and you never know where he’ll find one,” 60-year-old agronomist Lyubov Mozhayeva said as he picked up a humanitarian food package in the partially destroyed frontline town of Bakhmut.

The first face-to-face talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations since another meeting in Istanbul on March 29 poses a threat of food shortages spreading to the poorest parts of the world.

Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat and cereals such as barley and corn. It has also provided nearly half of the sunflower oil traded in world markets.

But supplies across the Black Sea have been blocked by Russian warships and mines laid by Kyiv to stave off a feared amphibious attack.

– ‘Two steps from agreement’ –

Negotiations in Istanbul are complicated by growing suspicions that Russia is attempting to export grain it has stolen from Ukrainian farmers in regions under its control.

US space agency data released last week shows that 22 percent of Ukraine’s farmland has come under Russian control since the February 24 invasion.

Both sides say they’ve made progress but maintain firm demands that could derail talks.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv was “two steps away from a deal with Russia”.

“We are in the final stages and everything now depends on Russia,” he told Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Russia said its demands included the right to “search ships to avoid arms smuggling” – a demand rejected by Kyiv.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tried Tuesday to downplay expectations of an imminent breakthrough.

“We are indeed working hard, but there is still a long way to go,” the UN chief told reporters.

– grain corridors –

NATO member Turkey has used its good relations with both the Kremlin and Kyiv to try to broker an agreement on a secure way of delivering grain.

Turkey says it has 20 merchant ships in the region that could be quickly loaded and sent to world markets.

A UN plan calls for ships to follow safe “corridors” that run between known mine sites.

Kyiv has also requested that its ships be escorted by warships from a friendly country like Turkey.

Experts say demining the Black Sea is a complex operation that could take months — too long to handle the growing global food crisis.

Kuleba said he doesn’t think Moscow actually wants a deal because proceeds from grain sales would help prop up a Western-backed government in Kyiv that the Kremlin describes as “Nazis.”

“You know that if we start exporting, we will get proceeds from world markets and that will make us stronger,” Kuleba said.

– ‘Operating Break’ –

The talks in Istanbul follow a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next Tuesday in Tehran.

The war in Ukraine has contributed to Turkey’s mounting economic woes and further complicated Erdogan’s path to a third decade in power in elections due next year.

Erdogan’s ultimate goal is to bring Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Istanbul for talks aimed at ending the fighting and launching formal peace talks.

But Ukraine’s army warned this week that Russia was preparing its heaviest attack yet on the Donetsk region – the larger of the two areas that make up the Donbass war zone.

The Russian army has not launched any major ground offensives since capturing the last points of Ukrainian resistance in the smaller Lugansk region of the war zone earlier this month.

Analysts believe the Russians are on an “operational pause” in which to upgrade and regroup their forces before launching an attack on Sloviansk and Kramatorsk – Ukraine’s administrative center for the east.

Ukraine is trying to counter the Russians by staging ever-increasing attacks on weapons depots using new US and European missile systems.

US officials believe the Russians are trying to recoup their losses by negotiating to acquire hundreds of combat drones from Iran.

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#Russia #Ukraine #solve #grain #crisis #Turkey

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