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Russia-Ukraine live updates: Zelensky says Ukraine is ready to ship grain

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

ODESA, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, visiting a port in the Odessa region on Friday, expressed hope that grain exports could begin in the coming days, as US and EU ambassadors called on the Russia to honor an agreement to advance the grain.

Mr Zelensky said his visit to the Black Sea port of Chernomorsk, where the first shipment of grain since the start of the war was being loaded onto a Turkish freighter, was intended to signal that Ukrainian ports were ready, the service said. President’s press release. He was accompanied by representatives of the Group of 7 industrialized nations.

The visit came less than a week after Russian cruise missiles hit the nearby port of Odessa, threatening to overturn a UN-brokered deal with Turkey to allow Ukraine to start exporting cereals to countries hard hit by food shortages. Ukrainian ports have been sealed off by a Russian Black Sea naval blockade since troops invaded the country on February 24.

“Our side is fully ready,” Mr. Zelensky said. “We have given our partners, the UN and Turkey, the signal and our military will guarantee security.”

His visit follows a Friday trip to the port of Odessa by ambassadors from the United States and Europe, who, together with Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kurbakov, urged Russia to respect the agreement and said that it was possible that the expeditions could begin. from Friday.

“Millions of people around the world are waiting for grain to come out of this port and other Ukrainian ports,” said Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, who was making her first visit to Odessa. “It is very important that Russia respects its commitments and allows the export of this grain.

As she spoke, a large freighter supposed to deliver grain – called the Navi-Star – was moored in port near a group of large silver grain silos, its crew, in orange overalls, busy on deck. The Turkish-owned bulk carrier has been stuck in the port since February 19, days before the start of the invasion, according to shipping website MarineTraffic, as one of the few ships that failed to get out before the blockade.

The mechanics of transporting grain across the Black Sea with little trust between warring parties are extremely complex. The operation has several moving parties, and the parties – Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations – were still working on important elements on Friday, a UN official said.

Credit…Ukrainian Presidential Press Service

A joint coordination center that opened in Turkey on Wednesday is working to establish standard operating procedures, including monitoring and inspection and emergency response, said Ismini Palla, a UN official, adding that teams were also always working on safe routes and corridors for incoming and outgoing vessels.

“Once all of these pieces are in place, we will start to see the first movements,” Ms Palla said. “The ultimate goal is to ensure the safe passage of commercial vessels.”

Ukraine is a leading exporter of wheat, barley, maize and sunflower, but its shipments plummeted after the war began, undermining a global food distribution network already strained by bad weather. harvests, drought, pandemic-related disruptions and climate change. Exports from Russia, also a major supplier, also fell.

The United Nations has warned of potential famine and political unrest, and Western officials have accused Russian President Vladimir V. Putin of using hunger as leverage to ease sanctions.