While the fighting continues, Russia and Ukraine have struck a historic pact.
The warring parties have agreed to allow grain shipments through Ukrainian Black Sea ports once more, giving rise to hopes that the world’s dire food situation, which has been made worse by the Russian invasion, will be alleviated.
The deal, which President Tayyip Erdogan boldly dubbed a “turning point” in the struggle to avert hunger for billions, is the result of two months of negotiations mediated by the United Nations and Turkey.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told top commanders that Kyiv’s forces, who are now more heavily supplied with precise, longer-range Western weapons, had a good chance of turning the tide on the battlefield although combat and severe destruction continued in Ukraine’s east.
Russian and Ukrainian representatives declined to sit at the same table at the signing ceremony because deep-seated animosity and mistrust are what are causing the worst conflict in Europe since World War Two, and the flags of the two nations were moved so they were no longer displayed next to one another.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a presidential adviser in Kiev, stated in a tweet prior to the event that “in case of provocations, (there would be) a quick military response.”
After two months of negotiations, the UN Secretary General said that a “package” had been reached that would ease Russian grain and fertilizer imports while also restoring Ukrainian grain exports, despite severe Western sanctions on Moscow.
After Turkey assisted in mediating the agreement between the two nations, who are among the top exporters of food in the world, a buoyant Erdogan claimed the pact will reduce global food inflation and stated that “war will stop at the negotiation table.”
Despite severe sanctions on Moscow, it seeks to resume Ukrainian grain exports while easing Russian grain and fertiliser imports.
Erdogan urged all sides to put a stop to the crisis and stated the agreement will be managed by a joint coordination center in Istanbul, Turkey.
He continued by saying that all of mankind is impacted by war, not just the parties engaged.
“We are proud to be instrumental in an initiative that will play a major role in solving global food crisis that has been on the agenda for a long time,’ the Turkish leader said.
“War will end at the negotiating table. This is a turning point,” he added. UN Secretary General António Guterres said the outcome opens the way to significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports including Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny. It will also see the UN set up a coordination centre to monitor implementation of the deal. Guterres said: “Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea. A beacon of hope… possibility… and relief in a world that needs it more than ever.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine and US allies believe the invaded nation can turn the tide of the war. The US believes Russia’s military is sustaining hundreds of casualties a day, including thousands of officers up to general rank in total, in the course of the war, a senior US defense official said on Friday.
The insider said that Washington also thought Ukraine had decimated over 100 “high-value” Russian targets in Ukraine, including command centers, ammunition storage facilities, and air defense positions.
Since Russian forces took control of the final two Ukrainian-held cities in the eastern Luhansk region in late June and early July, there have been no significant victories on the front lines.
For the benefit of separatist proxies who have proclaimed two separate mini-states spanning the larger industrialized Donbas area, Russian forces are now concentrated on seizing the entirety of the neighboring Donetsk province.
Russian soldiers supported by heavy artillery continued to attempt to move into the cities of Kramatorsk and Bakhmut as well as the Vuhlehirska thermal power plant in Donetsk, according to the morning briefing from Ukraine’s military staff, but made little headway.
Kyiv hopes that its gradually increasing supply of Western arms, such as U.S. High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), will allow it to counter-attack and recapture lost eastern and southern territories. Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday its forces had destroyed four HIMARS systems between July 5-20. Kyiv denied the claims, calling them “fakes” meant to sap Western support for Ukraine.
Russia says it is waging a “special military operation” to demilitarise its neighbour and rid it of dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and the West say Russia is mounting an imperialist campaign to reconquer a pro-Western neighbour that broke free of Moscow’s rule when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The warring countries sent their defence and infrastructure ministers respectively to Istanbul for the signing ceremony for the landmark grain supplies deal.
Guterres and Erdogan also attended. Bottlenecks in the global supply chain have worsened after Ukrainian ports were blocked by Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Tens of millions of tonnes of grain were trapped in silos with many ships stranded. Sweeping Western sanctions are also taking a toll with galloping inflation in food and energy prices around the world. Moscow has denied responsibility for the worsening food crisis.
Instead it blames Western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertiliser exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its Black Sea ports. Senior UN officials said on Friday that the deal was expected to be fully operational in a few weeks. Safe passage into and out of the ports would be guaranteed in what one official called a “de facto ceasefire” for the ships and facilities covered, they said. Although the word “ceasefire” was not in the agreement text.
Though Ukraine has mined nearby offshore areas as part of its defences against Russia’s five-month-old invasion, Ukrainian pilots would guide ships along safe channels in its territorial waters, they said. Monitored by a Joint Coordination Center based in Istanbul, the ships would then transit the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosphorus strait and proceed to world markets, UN officials said.
Although the offer is renewed after 120 days, it is not anticipated to be terminated anytime soon.
The fact that two sides at war—and who are still very much at war—have managed to negotiate such an accord, a UN official observed.
“That’s unparalleled, in my opinion,”
Another claimed that a different agreement inked on Friday would facilitate Russian shipments of food and fertilizer.
The United Nations appreciated the US and EU’s confirmations that their sanctions would not apply to such exports, they continued.