Russia, Ukraine Sign Grain Deal

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(Newser)

Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements Friday with Turkey and the United Nations clearing the way for the export of millions of tons of desperately needed Ukrainian grain—as well as some Russian grain and fertilizer—across the Black Sea. The long-sought deal ends a wartime standoff that has threatened food security around the globe. The UN plan will enable Ukraine—one of the world’s key breadbaskets—to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in Black Sea ports due to Russia’s invasion. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it “a beacon of hope” for millions of hungry people who have faced huge increases in the price of food.

“A deal that allows grain to leave Black Sea ports is nothing short of lifesaving for people across the world who are struggling to feed their families,” said Red Cross Director-General Robert Mardini. He noted that over the past six months, prices for food have risen 187% in Sudan, 86% in Syria, and 60% in Yemen, just to name a few countries. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed separate, identical deals Friday with Guterres and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar at a ceremony in Istanbul that was witnessed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Russia and Ukraine would not sign any deal directly with each other. Guterres described the deal as an unprecedented agreement between two parties engaged in a bloody conflict.

Yet in Kyiv, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba sounded a more somber note. “I’m not opening a bottle of champagne because of this deal,” Kuleba told the AP. “I will keep my fingers crossed that this will work, that ships will carry grain to world markets and prices will go down and people will have food to eat. But I’m very cautious because I have no trust in Russia.” The agreement says a joint coordination center will be set up in Istanbul staffed by officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the UN to run the plan, including scheduling cargo ships’ arrivals and departures. The center will be headed by a UN official. Inspection teams with representatives from all parties in Turkey will search vessels entering and leaving Ukrainian ports to ensure there are no weapons or soldiers on board.

(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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