Zelenskiy demands firmer defence of Ukraine grains export corridor

  • The Turkish minister expects the grain deal with Russia to continue
  • Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure cause blackouts
  • Evacuation of citizens from several districts of Kherson begins

KYIV/MYKOLAIV, Ukraine, Nov 2 (Reuters) – Long-term protection is needed for Ukraine’s grain export corridor and the world must respond firmly to any Russian attempt to cut it off, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, as more ships loaded despite Moscow is suspending its participation in a UN-brokered deal.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine on February 24, pulled out of the deal over the weekend, saying it could not guarantee the safety of civilian ships because of an attack on its Black Sea fleet.

In a video address late Tuesday night, Zelensky said ships were moving from Ukrainian ports with cargo thanks to the work of Turkey and the United Nations, the two main brokers of the July 22 grain export deal.

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

“Russia must clearly understand that it will receive a firm response from the world to any steps to cut off our food exports,” Zelensky said. “This is about the lives of tens of millions of people.

Eight ships with agricultural products are 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 against its neighbor is food shortages and a cost-of-living crisis in many countries.

The grain deal was intended to help prevent famine by injecting more wheat, sunflower oil and fertilizer into world markets and ease a dramatic rise in prices. It was aimed at the pre-war level of 5 million metric tons exported from Ukraine each month.

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

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also said progress was being made and hoped the deal would continue.

“We appreciate the information available that this arrangement 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 is expected “today and tomorrow,” he said.

Under the agreement, more than 9.5 million tons of corn, wheat, sunflower products, barley, canola and soybeans were exported. An Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Center (JCC) – made up of officials from the UN, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine – coordinates the movement of the ships and inspects them.

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LISTS OF ELECTRICITY

Russia fired missiles at Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, in what President Vladimir Putin called retaliation for an attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet over the weekend. Ukraine said it shot down most of those missiles, but some hit power plants, cutting off electricity and water supplies.

Nine regions were experiencing power outages to stabilize the grid and “energy specialists and local authorities are doing everything to shorten power outages,” Zelensky said Tuesday night.

The United States on Tuesday condemned the attacks, saying about 100 missiles were fired on Monday and Tuesday.

“As temperatures drop, these Russian attacks aimed at exacerbating human suffering are particularly abhorrent,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters at a daily briefing. Russia denies attacking civilians.

Kherson EVACUATIONS

On Tuesday, Russia told civilians to leave an area along the east bank of the Dnieper River in Ukraine’s Kherson province, a major expansion of an evacuation order that Kyiv said amounted to forced depopulation of occupied territory.

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

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Russian-appointed officials said Tuesday they were expanding that order to a 15-kilometer (9-mile) buffer zone also along the east coast. Ukraine claims the evacuations involve forced deportations from occupied territory, a war crime.

The mouth of the Dnieper became one of the most important front lines in the war.

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

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

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

Reports from Reuters bureaus; Written by Peter Graff, Gareth Jones and Grant McCool; Editing by Nick McPhee and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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