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News, July 2022
Ukrainian-Russian Grain and Fertilizer Exports Resume, With Turkish-UN Support, While War Still Going On
July 27, 2022
Joint Istanbul grain center opens with 1st shipment awaited soon
BY DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL JUL 27, 2022 - 3:21 PM GMT
The headquarters that will coordinate the trade of millions of tons of trapped grain out of Ukraine was formally unveiled in Istanbul on Wednesday after a landmark United Nations-led deal last week, with the first shipments expected to depart from Black Sea ports within days.
Russia and Ukraine signed identical agreements last Friday with the United Nations and Turkey in Istanbul aimed at providing safe corridors for ships going in and out of three Ukrainian Black Sea ports that have been blocked by Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion.
The joint coordination center (JCC) will oversee departures from the ports of Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny, in which ships must circumvent mines, and will conduct inspections of incoming ships for weapons. All vessels pass through Turkish waters.
“The duty of the center is to provide safe sea transportation of grain and similar food products to be exported from Ukraine,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said as he unveiled the headquarters.
Akar said preparations were ongoing for the first ships to leave Ukrainian ports.
Ukrainian, U.N. and Turkish officials have all expressed hope that the first vessels would depart one of the Black Sea ports in a few days. But they have also said it could take two weeks for all three ports to become operational again.
The war has wreaked havoc on global trade, stranding over 100 ships in Ukraine’s many ports.
The goal over the next months is to get more than 20 million tons of wheat and other grain out of silos in Ukraine and ship them across the Black Sea to millions of impoverished people worldwide who are facing hunger.
Whole world watching
The implementation of the plan, including the scheduling of ships along the route, will be monitored from the center staffed by representatives from all parties. A total of 20 personnel from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the U.N. will work side-by-side at the center.
“The staff working at this center are aware that the eyes of the world are upon them,” Akar told reporters in his address at the National Defense University in Istanbul’s central Levent neighborhood, where the JCC is located.
The center will register and monitor the departure of commercial ships via satellite, internet and other communication means, the minister said. He added that the ships will be inspected by joint inspection teams at locations deemed suitable for loading at Ukrainian ports and upon arrival at ports in Turkey.
He stressed that the deal will be valid for 120 days, and it will be renewed unless there is a demand otherwise from any of the parties.
“It is our hope that the center will make the greatest contribution possible to humanitarian needs and peace.”
If left unaddressed, the grain problem could have caused security problems due to hunger and global irregular migration, the minister warned.
Akar said more than 25 million tons of grain was waiting to be exported. “Currently, the preparation and planning is continuing for the first ships laden with grain that will leave Ukrainian ports.”
Vital to millions of people
Getting wheat and other food out is critical to farmers in Ukraine, who are running out of storage capacity as they harvest their fields. Those grains are vital to millions of people in Africa, parts of the Middle East and South Asia, who are already facing food shortages and, in some cases, famine.
Ukraine and Russia are key global suppliers of wheat, barley, corn and sunflower oil, with fighting in the Black Sea region, known as the “breadbasket of the world,” pushing up food prices, threatening political stability in developing nations and leading countries to ban some food exports, worsening the crisis.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for slowing exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports.
On demining Ukrainian ports, Akar said if there is a need, the parties will act accordingly, but added: “At this stage, there is no need for demining.”
U.N. estimates say nearly 50 million people began to face “acute hunger” around the world as a direct consequence of the war.
Wheat prices fell sharply hours after the grain deal was signed. But the deal was almost immediately thrown into jeopardy after Russia fired cruise missiles on the port of Odessa, Ukraine’s largest, on Saturday morning, just 12 hours after the signing ceremony in Istanbul.
Both Moscow and Kyiv have said they will push forward with the agreement, the first major diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict, now in its sixth month.
But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said on Wednesday the deal could collapse if obstacles to Russia’s agricultural exports are not promptly removed, Interfax reported.
Operations resume at ports
Dozens of cargo ships have started preparing to depart from the three Black Sea ports after being stranded at sea for five months due to the ongoing clashes.
Kyiv on Wednesday said works had resumed at the ports designated for grain exports.
“In connection with the signing of the agreement on the unblocking of Ukrainian ports for the export of grain, work has resumed in the ports of Odessa, Chernomorsk and Pivdennyi,” the Ukrainian navy said in a statement on social media.
Ukraine said Monday that some exports could restart as early as “this week.”
The navy said in its statement that when exports do resume, cargo ships will be escorted to and from the ports.
“The entry and exit of ships to seaports will be carried out by forming a convoy that will accompany the lead ship,” it said in the statement, adding that safe routes were still being determined.
‘We were worried’
A Turkish official said all the details regarding the ships’ departure had been worked out, including a safe route that will not require the clearing of sea mines.
“It will not take more than a few days. It looks like the first grains will be loaded this week and its export from Ukraine will take place,” said the official, who requested anonymity.
NATO member Turkey has taken pride in being able to maintain open diplomatic relations with both Moscow and Kyiv throughout the conflict.
The deal came together just days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed Ukraine with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Tehran.
Erdoğan is due to meet Putin again at the Russian leader’s Black Sea retreat in Sochi on Aug. 5.
But Ankara has also issued measured criticism of Russia’s strike on Odessa. “The Odessa attack worried everyone. We were worried too,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in an online interview on Wednesday.
“At the end, this was not an attack that could have blocked the harbor’s functioning. But this kind of attack should not be repeated. We hope that the agreement might function without any issues.”
Putin and Erdogan to exchange views on work on Ukrainian grain export center — Kremlin
The joint grain export coordination center will officially begin work on Wednesday in Istanbul
MOSCOW, July 27. /TASS/.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan will exchange views on the work of the Ukrainian grain export center at a meeting in Sochi on August 5, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
"Now it (grain deal - TASS) should de facto start being implemented, the process will start, and this will be a good opportunity to exchange views in Sochi on how it corresponds to the agreements that have been reached," the Kremlin spokesman said.
The joint grain export coordination center will officially begin work on Wednesday in Istanbul. It will be inaugurated by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
The center was established on the basis of the four-party agreements signed on July 22 in Istanbul. It has been set up at the Turkish Defense Ministry’s university in Istanbul’s Levent neighborhood. According to Turkey’s media outlets, 20 people will work there, namely, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian military officers and UN representatives, headed by a Turkish admiral. The Russian delegation will be headed by Rear Admiral Eduard Luik. Control over the safe navigation along grain transporting routes from Ukrainian ports will be exercised around the clock.
A package of documents geared towards resolving the issue of food and fertilizer supplies on global markets was signed on July 22 in Istanbul. Under the Russia-UN memorandum, the United Nations undertakes to work toward lifting anti-Russian restrictions hampering the exports of agricultural products and fertilizers. Another document envisages a mechanism of exporting grain from Ukraine-controlled Black Sea ports. An agreement between Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations provides for the establishment of a four-party coordination center to search ships carrying grain in order to prevent weapons smuggling and avoid any false flag.
Turkish authorities expect that the transportation of grain through the Black Sea to begin in the next few days.
First Ukraine grain exports likely this week under deal -Turkish official
Wheat field is seen in the village of Zhurivka, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine July 23, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
ISTANBUL, July 27 (Reuters) -
The headquarters overseeing exports of Ukrainian grains is set to be unveiled in Istanbul on Wednesday after a landmark U.N. deal last week, and a senior Turkish official said the first ship is likely to depart Black Sea ports in a few days.
Russia and Ukraine signed the deal on Friday, brokered by Ankara and the United Nations, to reopen grain and fertiliser exports that have been blocked by war to ease an international food crisis.
The joint coordination centre (JCC) in Istanbul will oversee departures from three Ukrainian ports in which ships must circumvent mines, and will conduct inspections of incoming ships for weapons. All vessels pass through Turkish waters. read more
A Turkish official said all the details had been worked out, including a safe route for ships that will not require the clearing of sea mines.
"It will not take more than a few days. It looks like the first grains will be loaded this week and its export from Ukraine will take place," said the official, who requested anonymity.
The deal was almost immediately thrown into jeopardy after Russia fired cruise missiles on the port of Odesa, Ukraine's largest, on Saturday morning, just 12 hours after the signing ceremony in Istanbul.
But both Moscow and Kyiv have said they will push forward with the agreement - the first major diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict, now in its sixth month.
All parties will appoint representatives at the JCC to monitor the implementation of the plan.
Ukraine and Russia accounted for around a third of global wheat exports before Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbour.
Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Can Sezer; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Louise Heavens
Turkey Says Ukraine Grain Exports Could Start Within a Week
President Erdogan’s spokesman Kalin speaks on grain corridor Ukraine expected to ship up to 25m tonnes in 2022: Kalin
A truck unloads barley at a grain terminal in Odesa region, Ukraine, on June 22.Source: NurPhoto/Getty Images
July 27, 2022 at 12:00 AM EDT
Turkey said grain exports from Ukrainian ports could resume within a week and reach 25 million tonnes by the end of the year, after it brokered a deal between Kyiv and Moscow that eased fears of a global food crisis.
Exactly when exports halted by Russia’s invasion would begin will be determined by logistical groundwork, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said in an interview on Tuesday.
As many as 100 vessels carrying grain and agricultural products were trapped in Ukrainian ports when war broke out. The United Nations expects the first to move within a few days, and an adviser to global insurers has proposed a mechanism that might help cover the trade.
Still, hitting Kalin’s forecast for exports by December could be a challenge. Analysis firm UkrAgroConsult says that the Black Sea ports in question -- Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi -- have a maximum combined capacity of 3.5 million tons a month.
Turkey is due to open a joint operations center with Ukraine, Russia and the UN on Wednesday to coordinate trade under the agreement.
A Russian missile strike on Odesa after the deal was reached raised doubts about Moscow’s commitment to the accord, but Kalin dismissed the concerns. The UN later said all sides had reconfirmed their intent to make the deal work.
The agreement capped months of diplomacy by the Turkish leader, who has struck a delicate balance since Russian troops entered Ukraine in February.
NATO member Turkey has been vocal about its support for Ukraine and a company headed by Erdogan’s son-in-law has provided dozens of armed drones to bolster the Ukrainian military. Yet Ankara refrained from joining sanctions targeting Russia and kept lines of communication open with President Vladimir Putin.
“If everyone burns bridges with Russia, who’ll talk to them? We have seen [with this agreement] how important Turkey’s balancing act is,” Kalin said.
The invasion of Ukraine added to fronts where Turkey needs to engage with neighboring Russia. Moscow provided a quarter of Turkey’s crude oil imports and around 45% of its natural-gas purchases last year.
And the two nations have become entangled in geopolitical flashpoints, including wars in Syria and Libya. Moscow became the leading ally of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus, while Turkey supported rebel groups opposing it.
Turkey has in the past sent troops into northern Syria, intent on preventing a new wave of refugees heading toward its frontier and countering Kurdish militants that Ankara sees as a major threat.
Kalin reiterated Erdogan’s recent pledge to once again hit “terrorist” Kurdish groups in Syria, saying that a cross-border operation could begin “at any time.”
Yet Turkish plans for another operation to push the militants further away from the border have run into opposition from the US, as well as from Russia and Iran, another key Assad supporter.
Ankara says the Kurdish armed groups in Syria -- which were backed by western nations in the war with Islamic State -- are indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in the southeast of Turkey for decades and is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union.
Kalin criticized Twitter posts by US Central Command on Sunday praising Kurdish militants killed earlier this month -- ostensibly in an operation staged by Turkish forces.
“This is not something that can be accepted as part of the fight against terrorism and within the NATO alliance,” he said.
— With assistance by Megan Durisin
Russia plans sweeping military exercises in country's east
BY DAILY SABAH WITH AP
ANKARA JUL 26, 2022 -
Russia will hold wide-ranging military drills in the country’s east next month, the Defense Ministry said, thousands of miles from the war it is waging in Ukraine.
The ministry said that the Vostok 2022 (East 2022) exercise scheduled for Aug. 30-Sept. 5 would involve troops on maneuvers at 13 Eastern Military District firing ranges.
It added that units of Airborne troops, long-range bombers and military cargo planes would also be involved in the war games.
The ministry said troops from unspecified foreign countries would participate. Russian and Chinese troops took part in a series of joint military maneuvers last year, reflecting increasingly close military ties between Moscow and Beijing.
The ministry rejected allegations of mobilizing forces to beef up its forces in Ukraine, noting that “only part of the Russian military has been involved in the special military operation.”
Without disclosing details, the ministry said the number of troops operating in Ukraine is “quite sufficient for fulfilling the tasks” and emphasized that the military hasn't canceled any of the planned drills.
Moscow hasn't said how many of its million-soldier military are involved in action in Ukraine.
Russian forces strike port infrastructure in Ukraine's Mykolaiv
Daily Sabah, ISTANBUL JUL 26, 2022 -
Russia targeted Ukraine’s Black Sea regions of Odessa and Mykolaiv with air strikes on Tuesday, hitting private buildings and port infrastructure along the country’s southern coast, the Ukrainian military said.
The Kremlin’s forces used air-launched missiles in the attack, Ukraine’s Operational Command South said in a Facebook post.
In the Odessa region, a number of private buildings in villages on the coast were hit and caught fire, the report said. In the Mykolaiv region, port infrastructure was targeted, according to Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich.
"A massive missile strike was launched on the south of Ukraine from the direction of the Black Sea, and with the use of aviation," he told Ukrainian state television, providing no details on the aftermath of the strike.
Hours after the renewed strikes on the south, a Moscow-installed official in the southern Kherson region said the Odessa and Mykolaiv regions will soon be “liberated” by the Russian forces, just like the Kherson region further east.
“The Kherson region and the city of Kherson have been liberated forever,” Kirill Stremousov was quoted as saying by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
The developments came as Ukraine appeared to be preparing a counteroffensive in the south.
The Ukrainian military reported Russian cruise missile strikes in the south and that Ukrainian forces had hit enemy targets. Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson from the military administration in Odessa, told a Ukrainian television channel that a missile fired from the direction of the Black Sea had struck the region, but gave no information on casualties.
The grain deal aims to allow safe passage for grain shipments in and out of Ukrainian ports, blockaded by Russia since its Feb. 24 invasion. Russia has blamed Ukraine for stalling shipments by mining the port waters.
A major fire broke out at an oil depot in the Budyonnovsky district of Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine after Ukrainian troops shelled the province, Russia's TASS reported, quoting a reporter at the scene. No casualties or injuries have been reported.
Fighting rages on in the south and east of Ukraine as the appeal of the nation's first war crimes conviction was adjourned Monday. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old captured Russian soldier who pleaded guilty to killing a civilian and was sentenced in May by a Ukrainian court to life in prison, sat in a glass box in the courtroom as he faced news cameras. The hearing was postponed until July 29 due to his lawyer’s ill health.
Around Ukraine's capital region, where Russian forces pulled out four months ago, much of the work of documenting crime scenes and interviewing witnesses has been done. Now a more difficult phase in the search for accountability is underway: Finding those responsible.
Shishimarin’s case is unusual in that Ukrainian authorities quickly found evidence to link him with the shooting of a 62-year-old man in the northeastern Sumy region on Feb. 28. That’s not the case for most war crimes cases now under investigation.
Ukrainian prosecutors have registered over 20,100 potential war crimes, and police in the Kyiv region have exhumed more than 1,300 bodies.
But as of July, prosecutors in Ukraine have only been able to identify 127 suspects, according to the prosecutor general’s office. Fifteen of them are currently in Ukraine as prisoners of war while the rest remain at large. Those suspects include three accused of sexual violence and 64 accused of willful killing or ill-treatment of civilians.
Shishimarin is one of 10 people to face war crimes trials so far in Ukraine, in cases involving indiscriminate shelling, willful killing, sexual violence, robbery, ill-treatment of civilians and attacks on civilian objects. Six have been convicted, according to the prosecutor general’s office.
Ukraine’s top prosecutors have long argued for speedy trials – in part to meet a seething public hunger for justice – even as they work to maintain judicial standards that will satisfy domestic watchdogs and allies in the U.S. and Europe.
Victims of chaos and carnage in the early weeks of the war in Ukraine were buried haphazardly. All those bodies had to be dug up for forensic examination. Kyiv regional police have exhumed 1,346 bodies, but more than 300 people are still missing, according to Nebytov.
More than half of the victims police have found so far were shot dead; 38 of them were children. Kyiv police have found 13 mass graves in the region.
Ukraine looks to secure up to $20B in IMF loan by year-end
LONDON JUL 27, 2022
Ukraine aims to strike a deal for a $15 billion-$20 billion program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before year-end to help shore up its war-torn economy, the country’s central bank governor Kyrylo Shevchenko said Wednesday.
Battered by Russia’s invasion launched on Feb. 24, Ukraine faces a 35%-45% economic contraction in 2022 and a monthly fiscal shortfall of $5 billion and is heavily reliant on foreign financing from its Western partners.
Shevchenko, 49, speaking during his visit to London, also said he hoped to agree on a swap line with the Bank of England (BoE) “within weeks,” though he did not specify the amount.
Kyiv had already submitted its request to the IMF, the governor said, and was now in consultation with the fund over the new financing that he hoped would provide as much as $20 billion over two or three years in the form of a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) or an Extended Fund Facility (EFF).
It was the first time Ukraine has put a number on the fresh financing it needed from the Washington-based lender. A $20 billion program would be the second largest currently active loan from the IMF after Argentina.
“The IMF has always acted as Ukraine’s partner during the war,” Shevchenko told Reuters. “My hope is to start the program this year.”
The central bank chief said a new program should provide measures that will help stabilize the economy. That could ensure a return to pre-war conditions, such as a flexible exchange rate, no limits on the currency market, decreasing non-performing loans in the banking sector and a balanced fiscal policy.
The IMF’s latest loan to Ukraine was a $1.4 billion emergency financing support agreed in March – the equivalent of 50% of the country’s quota in the fund.
Separately, Kyiv is now in talks with its international creditors over a freeze in debt payments to ease its liquidity crunch. On Tuesday, Ukrainian energy firm Naftogaz has become the country’s first government entity to default since the start of the Russian invasion.
“I hope that Naftogaz, together with the ministry of finance of Ukraine, that they will find a solution,” said Shevchenko.
“The consequences (of the default) will be solely relating to Naftogaz.”
Ukraine’s central bank has a $1 billion line with Poland’s central bank already.
Some relief on foreign exchange revenue and liquidity would also come from the deal agreed last week between Moscow and Kyiv to allow safe passage for grain shipments in and out of Ukrainian ports, blockaded by Russia since its invasion.
However, those revenues and shipments would only pick up in earnest next year, when under the central bank’s “conservative” estimates exports could hit 5 million tons per month and generate approximately $5 billion in 2023, Shevchenko said.
Speaking about the central bank’s intervention in currency markets as well as its bond-buying program, Shevchenko said both would continue for now, though the latter would cease as soon as the war ended.
“To provide monetary financing was the most painful decision in my life, but we did realize it was necessary during the war,” said Shevchenko.
He added that operating in times of war had seen a whole new host of vocabulary spring up, with expressions such as “maturity of war” – a term to describe the time frame of a debt instrument used in the context of the conflict.
“We see (this) as one of the biggest uncertainties,” he said. “Until the end of the war, we and the Ministry of Finance should work together to overcome all these challenges, using the monetary finances and the internal debt market.”
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