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UN chief visits Odessa amid Russian attacks on Donbass

#chief #visits #Odessa #Russian #attacks #Donbass

UN chief Antonio Guterres was expected at south Ukraine’s main port in Odessa on Friday, a day after he said Turkey and Ukraine hoped to expand their landmark grain export deal with Russia.

The visit came as Russian forces continued a relentless bombing campaign in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, with Kyiv reporting five people were killed in the industrial province of Donetsk in the past 24 hours.

As part of the UN chief’s visit to Ukraine, he met with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped broker the grain deal signed in Istanbul, and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the three leaders, Guterres said the United Nations wanted to “expand” operations under the deal before the winter.

The only significant deal between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow invaded in February has so far resulted in 25 boats carrying around 600,000 tons of agricultural products departing from three designated ports, Kyiv said.

Zelenskyi told Erdogan and Guterres at the press conference that he believed there was “a global need to increase the number of ships safely exporting Ukrainian food”.

“Our state is ready to be and will remain the guarantor of global food security,” added Zelenskyy.

Guterres is expected to travel to Odessa, Turkey, to visit the Joint Coordination Center, the body tasked with overseeing the deal.

The agreement between Kyiv and Moscow to clear exit corridors from three Ukrainian ports, including Odessa, has eased concerns about global food shortages with warring countries among the world’s top producers.

It appeared to be on the brink of collapse when a day after it was signed, Russian missiles hit the port of Odessa, prompting an outcry from world leaders.

It has held since then, but the deal has brought little peace along the expansive frontlines in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces have slowly pushed forward after nearly six months of fighting.

– Concerns about nuclear power plants –

The main tool of Moscow’s armed forces has been artillery fire, and recent bombing raids on the Donetsk region — partly controlled by Russian proxies since 2014 — left several dead.

Ukrainian head of the region Pavlo Kyrylenko said on social media on Friday that Russian attacks in three settlements had killed five people and injured ten others.

Strikes early Friday in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, killed one person and damaged a school and a private business, the head of the region said. More than a dozen people have been killed in Russian attacks around Kharkiv in the past two days.

In recent days, however, concerns have centered on the Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, where both sides have shared blame for strikes and accused each other of plotting attacks.

The flare-up around Europe’s largest nuclear facility has prompted urgent warnings from world leaders, and Guterres warned during talks with Erdogan that any damage to the facility would amount to “suicide”.

The Turkish leader, meanwhile, said: “We are concerned. We do not want another Chernobyl,” referring to the 1986 nuclear disaster.

Moscow on Thursday dismissed Ukrainian allegations that its forces had used heavy weapons in Zaporizhia, instead accusing Kyiv of preparing a “provocation” there, accusing Russia of “causing a man-made disaster at the plant “.

However, Kyiv insisted that Moscow was planning a “provocation” at the facility.

Ukraine’s military intelligence said in a Facebook post late Thursday that it had received reports that all but a “small portion of operational personnel” at the facility were ordered to stay home on Friday, while officials from the state-owned Russian nuclear operator “actually would have left the territory” of the facility.

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