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Ukraine, Russia sign deal to resume blocked grain shipments in Black Sea

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From left, Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Oleksandr Kubrakov, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar attend a signature ceremony of an initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports, in Istanbul, on Friday. Photo by Gokhan Mert/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/6be21324896c26d196f6185dc50a2ea0/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
From left, Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Oleksandr Kubrakov, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar attend a signature ceremony of an initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports, in Istanbul, on Friday. Photo by Gokhan Mert/UPI | License Photo

July 22 (UPI) -- The governments of Russia and Ukraine signed agreements Friday to free up large Ukrainian shipments of grain that have been stuck at ports on the Black Sea for months, resolving a standoff that had threatened global food security.

Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukrainian infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed separate agreements in Turkey that allow grain shipments to resume, and for Russia to export grain and fertilizers.

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More than 20 tons of Ukrainian grain has been at the Black Sea ports, waiting to be shipped, since Russia initiated its war in late February. The suspension of exporting the valuable Ukrainian crop has disrupted world markets and threatened to worsen worldwide hunger.

The separate pacts were made with the United Nations and Turkey, as both have been overseeing negotiations.

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"The grain export agreement, critically important for global food security, will be signed in Istanbul [Friday] under the auspices of President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and U.N. Secretary-General [Antonio] Guterres together with Ukrainian and Russian delegations," Turkish spokesman İbrahim Kalın said in a tweet.

Russia's war led to a blockade of Ukrainian grain exports in the Black Sea.

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Ukraine diplomatic spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said the deals mandate that Russia and Ukraine ensure the safe operation of export routes from the Black Sea.

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The deals also call for a U.N.-monitored coordination center and the removal of mines around Ukrainian ports. Ukraine has been concerned about removing those mines, over the possibility that Russia would take advantage of the move and intensify attacks from the Black Sea.

Ukraine has wanted guarantees that Russia won't attack the seaports or grain ships when they start moving again.

Meanwhile, Russian defense officials said Friday forces have killed more than 300 Ukrainian fighters in a missile strike in Kramatorsk. Ukrainian officials said the strike hit a school building and that three bodies were found there.

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Moscow also said its forces destroyed four U.S.-made HIMARS rocket launchers this month, as well as one transport-loading vehicle.

"From July 5 to 20 out of U.S.-made HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems transferred to Ukraine, four launch units and one missile-transporter loader were eliminated using high-precision weapons," defense ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said according to TASS.

Britain's Defense Ministry said Friday that Ukrainian forces are fending off Russian attempts to assault the Vuhlehirsk power plant in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. The ministry said Russian artillery has been focused on areas around Kramatorsk and Siversk.

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"Russia has increased its use of air defense missiles in a secondary ground attack mode because of critical shortages of dedicated ground-attack missiles," the ministry said in a tweet Friday.

"These weapons have relatively small warheads, designed to destroy aircraft. They could pose a significant threat against troops in the open and light buildings."

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