Three more ships with grain sail from Ukraine ports

Kyiv seeks to extend shipping safe passage deal beyond grain; Russia ‘ready’ for prisoner swap talks with US
Ukrainian servicemen fire with a BM27 Uragan multiple launch rocket system at a position in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, as Russia’s offensive on Ukraine continues. The photo was taken on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Three grain ships left Ukrainian ports yesterday while the first inbound cargo vessel since Russia's invasion was due in Ukraine later in the day to load, as Kyiv called for the safe passage deal to be extended to other cargoes such as metals.

The July 22 deal marked a rare diplomatic breakthrough as war rages in eastern Ukraine, with Kyiv trying to rebuild its shattered economy after more than five months of conflict.

"We expect that the security guarantees of our partners from the UN and Turkey will continue to work, and food exports from our ports will become stable and predictable for all market participants," Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook after the ships set off.

The first grain ship left Odesa on Monday.

"This agreement is about logistics, about the movement of vessels through the Black Sea," Ukrainian Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka told Financial Times. "What's the difference between grain and iron ore?"

The Kremlin said a solution for extending safe passage deal can only be found if linked to lifting restrictions on Russian metal producers.

Yesterday, two grain ships set off from Chornomorsk and one from Odesa, carrying a total of about 58,000 tonnes of corn, the Turkish defence ministry said.

The Turkish bulk carrier Osprey S, flying the flag of Liberia, was expected to arrive in Chornomorsk later yesterday to load up with grain, the regional administration of Odesa said.

As the three vessels left Ukrainian ports, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was preparing with most of his top ministers for his second talks with President Vladimir Putin in 17 days in the Russian resort city of Sochi.

Erdogan wants to translate the success into truce talks in Istanbul between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine would like to include ports in the southern Mykolaiv region, to the east of Odesa, in the safe passage deal, though it has been frequently shelled throughout the invasion, reports Reuters.

The city of Mykolaiv itself was set to impose an unusually long curfew from later yesterday to early Monday as authorities try to catch people collaborating with Russia, the region's governor said.

After five months of fighting, President Zelensky spoke of fierce fighting around the town of Avdiivka in the eastern Donbas region and the fortified village of Pisky.

Russia's TASS news agency cited separatist forces as saying Russian and pro-Russian forces had taken full control of Pisky. They also said that fighting was taking place in the city of Bakhmut, north of Donetsk.

Meanwhile, Russia said yesterday it was "ready to discuss" a prisoner swap with Washington at the presidential level, a day after the drug conviction of US basketball star Brittney Griner.

The White House has urged Russia to accept its offer of a deal for the release of Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges.


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