Zelenskiy demands firmer defence of Ukraine grains export corridor

  • Turkish minister expects grain deal with Russia to continue
  • Russian attacks on the infrastructure of Ukraine caused power cuts
  • Civilian evacuations set from more Kherson districts

KYIV/MYKOLAIV, Ukraine, Nov 2 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s grain export corridor needs long-term protection and the world must respond firmly to any Russian attempts to disrupt it, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as more of ships loading despite Moscow suspending its participation in a deal brokered by the United Nations.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine on February 24, withdrew from the agreement over the weekend, saying it could not guarantee the safety of civilian ships due to an attack on its Black Sea fleet.

In a video address late on Tuesday, Zelenskiy said ships were moving out of Ukrainian ports with cargoes thanks to the work of Turkey and the United Nations, the two main brokers of the July 22 grain export agreement.

“But reliable and long-term protection is needed for the grain corridor,” Zelenskiy said.

“Russia must be made clearly aware that it will receive a harsh response from the world to any action to disrupt our food exports,” Zelenskiy said. “Obviously here are the lives of tens of millions of people.”

Eight ships with agricultural products were expected to pass through the corridor on Thursday, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter.

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One of the global consequences of Russia’s war on its neighbor has been food shortages and a cost of living crisis in many countries.

The aim of the grain deal was to help avoid famine by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil and fertilizer into world markets and to ease a dramatic increase in prices. It targeted the pre-war level of 5 million metric tons exported from Ukraine every month.

The UN coordinator for grain and fertilizer exports under the agreement said on Twitter on Tuesday that he expected laden ships to leave Ukrainian ports on Thursday.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also said that there was progress and that he hoped the agreement would continue.

“We are evaluating the available information that this agreement will continue,” Akar said in a statement after two phone calls in as many days with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu. A response from Russia was expected “today and tomorrow”, he said.

More than 9.5 million tonnes of corn, wheat, sunflower products, barley, rapeseed and soy have been exported under the agreement. A Joint Coordination Center (JCC) headquartered in Istanbul – made up of UN, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials – agrees on the movement of ships and inspects the ships.

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POWER OUTAGES

Russia fired missiles at Ukrainian cities including the capital Kyiv in what President Vladimir Putin called retaliation for an attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet over the weekend. Ukraine said it shot down most of those missiles, but some hit power stations, knocking out electricity and water supplies.

Nine regions were experiencing power cuts to stabilize the grid, and “energy experts and local authorities are doing everything to shorten the power cuts,” Zelenskiy said on Tuesday evening.

The US on Tuesday denied the attacks, saying around 100 missiles were fired on Monday and Tuesday.

“With the temperature dropping, these Russian attacks aimed at exacerbating human suffering are particularly horrific,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters at a daily briefing. Russia denies targeting civilians.

EMPTY KHERSON

Russia told civilians on Tuesday to leave an area along the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in the Ukrainian province of Kherson, a major extension of an evacuation order that Kyiv says amounts to the forced depopulation of occupied territory.

Russia had previously ordered civilians out of a pocket it controls on the west bank of the river, where Ukrainian forces have been advancing for weeks to capture the city of Kherson in what would be a strategic prize in the war

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Russian officials said Tuesday they were extending that order to a 15-km (9-mile) buffer along the eastern shore as well. Ukraine says the evacuations constitute forced deportation from occupied territory, a war crime.

The mouth of the Dnipro has become one of the most consequential front lines in the war.

Seven towns on the east bank would be evacuated, including the main populated settlements along that stretch of the river, Vladimir Saldo, head of the Russian-held Kherson province, said in a video message.

Russian-appointed authorities in the Kherson region also said a mandatory evacuation of the Kakhovka area, close to the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric station, was to begin on November 6.

Moscow has accused Kyiv of planning to use a so-called “dirty bomb” to spread radiation, or to blow up a dam to flood towns and villages in Kherson province. Kyiv says accusations that it would use such tactics on its own territory are absurd, but that Russia may be planning such actions itself to blame Ukraine.

Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Peter Graff, Gareth Jones and Grant McCool; Edited by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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