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Key developments

Aviation munitions went off at an airfield in western Crimea on Tuesday, causing no casualties so far, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The second caravan of ships transporting grain from Ukraine arrived at the shores of Istanbul, according to the Turkish Defense Ministry on Saturday.

The first grain-laden cargo ship leaving the Ukrainian port under a UN-brokered deal anchors off Istanbul on the Black Sea on Tuesday, waiting to be inspected by the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) before it resumes the voyage to Lebanon.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the situation in Ukraine during a phone conversation.

10:59 2022-08-13
Ukrainian president proposes extending martial law, general mobilization
File photo shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attending a press conference devoted to his two years in office in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 20, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

KYIV -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday proposed to the parliament to prolong the current martial law and general mobilization in the country for another 90 days, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported.

Two separate drafts on extending the martial law and general mobilization have been submitted to the parliament for consideration, according to the parliament's website.

The Ukrainian parliament imposed a martial law after the start of the conflict with Russia on Feb 24 and extended it three times since then.

The general mobilization of the population was introduced in Ukraine on Feb 24 and was prolonged in May for another three months.

The laws on the martial law and general mobilization in Ukraine are due to expire on Aug 23. 

07:30 2022-08-13
UN envoy airs Ukraine nuclear concerns
By MINLU ZHANG at the United Nations
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Energodar, Ukraine, as seen on March 8, has been subjected to shelling during the conflict. KONSTANTIN MIHALCHEVSKIY/SPUTNIK

A Chinese ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday reiterated his concerns over the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, calling for efforts to minimize the possibility of the leakage of radioactive materials.

"China has been closely following the issue of the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine and is deeply concerned by the recent shelling on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, said at a UN Security Council briefing on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Zhang said that according to the information obtained by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, from Ukraine's nuclear regulator, the shelling did not pose an immediate threat to nuclear safety.

"Nevertheless, the shelling did cause damage to the physical integrity of the plant, its safety and security system, power supply and personnel safety, which sounded a nuclear alarm to the international community," he said.

Ukraine and Russia have exchanged accusations over strikes on the plant in southern Ukraine. The facility is one of the largest atomic power complexes in Europe and generates a quarter of Ukraine's electricity. It has been under the control of Russian forces since March and has been the scene of military strikes in recent days.

Ukraine's Energoatom agency said the complex was struck five times on Thursday, including near where radioactive materials are stored. Russian-appointed officials said Ukraine shelled the plant twice, disrupting a shift changeover, Russia's TASS news agency said.

"The safety and security of nuclear sites must not be subjected to trial and error," said Zhang. If a large-scale accident were to occur at Zaporizhzhia, the consequences would be even more devastating than that of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, according to Zhang.

The leakage of massive quantities of radioactive materials caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the resulting nuclear-contaminated water have far-reaching consequences for the marine environment, food safety and human health, thereby sparking widespread concern, he said.

"China does not want to see the same risks playing out again," the envoy said.

In Thursday's meeting, Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the IAEA, called for a cessation of military activity around the plant. He referred to the situation as "a grave hour" and said that IAEA inspectors must be allowed to examine the complex "as soon as possible".

As shelling continued near the site, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said he was "gravely concerned" that the hostilities might lead to a disaster.

Agencies contributed to this story.

09:09 2022-08-12
Finland and Estonia leaders call for Russian visa ban amid Ukraine row
By JULIAN SHEA in London

The leaders of Finland and Estonia have called on European Union countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens while the conflict in Ukraine persists.

Currently, EU airspace is closed to Russian planes, but Russia shares land borders with both countries and its second-largest city, St Petersburg, is just 300 kilometers from the Finnish capital Helsinki, so Russians can travel there and then on to other European cities.

Visas issued by Finland are valid across most of Europe's Schengen zone travel area, which comprises 22 EU member states plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, allowing free movement of goods and people without border checks.

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin told state broadcaster YLE that while the conflict continues, Russians should not be allowed to "live a normal life".

Her Estonian counterpart Kaja Kallas supported that stance with a tweet saying "visiting Europe is a privilege, not a human right".

Currently, there is still a short-stay visa agreement in place between the EU and Russia, which has been partly suspended but not abandoned altogether.

In a Washington Post interview earlier this week, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on EU countries to deny all Russian tourist access, saying they should be made to "live in their own world until they change their philosophy".

Like Estonia, Latvia borders Russia and was previously part of the Soviet Union. It has already banned almost all visas for Russians, but Marin said the Finnish cabinet was discussing whether it could act independently, and thought that an EU-wide policy would be more effective.

"Is Finnish legislation up-to-date enough that we could introduce our own national sanctions in such a very exceptional situation? But I would personally like to see European solutions to this question as well," she said.

"I would believe that in future European Council meetings, this issue will come up even more strongly. My personal position is that tourism should be restricted."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the suggestions by saying: "I think that over time, common sense will somehow manifest itself, and those who made such statements will come to their senses.

"The irrationality of such reasoning goes beyond all limits and can only provoke a negative reaction…any attempt to isolate the Russians or Russia has no chance of succeeding," he added.

09:04 2022-08-12
Chinese envoy addresses risks at Ukraine nuclear facilities
By MINLU ZHANG at the United Nations
A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine Aug 4, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

A Chinese ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday reiterated his concerns over the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, calling for efforts to minimize the possibility of the leakage of radioactive materials.

"China has been closely following the issue of the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine and is deeply concerned by the recent shelling on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, said at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Zhang said according to the information obtained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from Ukraine's nuclear regulator, the shelling did not pose an immediate threat to nuclear safety, and the radiation level remained normal.

"Nevertheless, the shelling did cause damage to the physical integrity of the plant, its safety and security system, power supply and personnel safety, which sounded a nuclear alarm to the international community," he said.

Ukraine and Russia have exchanged accusations over strikes on the plant in southern Ukraine, which is one of the largest atomic power complexes in Europe and generates a quarter of Ukraine's electricity. It has been under the control of Russian forces since March and has been the scene of military strikes in recent days.

"The safety and security of nuclear sites must not be subjected to trial and error," said Zhang. If a large-scale accident were to occur at Zaporizhzhia, the consequences would be even more devastating than that of the Fukushima nuclear accident, according to Zhang.

The leakage of massive quantities of radioactive materials caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the resulting nuclear-contaminated water have far-reaching consequences for the marine environment, food safety and human health, thereby sparking widespread concern, he said. "China does not want to see the same risks playing out again."

"We call on the parties concerned to exercise restraint, act with caution, refrain from any action that may compromise nuclear safety and security, and spare no effort to minimize the possibility of accidents," the envoy said.

"China always supposes the IAEA's active role in promoting nuclear safety and security and performing its safeguard duties in strict accordance with its mandate," said Zhang.

In Thursday's meeting, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the IAEA called for a cessation of military activity around the plant. He referred to the situation as "a grave hour" and said that IAEA inspectors must be allowed to examine the complex "as soon as possible".

Zhang said he hopes the existing obstacles can be cleared as soon as possible for Grossi and the IAEA team of experts to visit the Zaporizhzhia plant and that they will be able to conduct their work without impediment.

The security risks posed by the conflict to nuclear facilities are looming large throughout the Ukraine crisis, said Zhang. "Only by defusing the situation and restoring peace at an early date, can we fundamentally remove nuclear risks, reduce misjudgment, and avoid accidents.

"Once again, we call on all parties concerned to resume negotiations as early as possible, seek a solution to the Ukraine crisis in a cool-headed and rational fashion, address each other's legitimate security concerns, and build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture, so as to achieve common security," he said.

As shelling continued near the site, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said he was "gravely concerned" the hostilities might lead to a disaster.

"I have appealed to all concerned to exercise common sense and reason and not to undertake any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant," he said in a statement.

09:08 2022-08-11
Russia hits back at 'provocative' move
Children play in what has become known as the symbolic cemetery of cars, some painted by local artists, in the Ukrainian city of Irpin on Tuesday. SERGEY SUPINSKY/AFP

MOSCOW-A senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday that a decision by Moscow to declare a freeze on US inspections of its nuclear arsenals under a key arms control treaty was triggered by Washington's push for a quick visit by inspectors.

In comments released by the Foreign Ministry, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said the United States called for the inspection, under the New START nuclear arms reduction pact, knowing that it would not let Russia carry out reciprocal inspections.

Ryabkov's comments came amid the increased flow of arms for Ukraine from Western countries, with stepped-up US support announced on Tuesday.

Russia had said on Monday that it would not allow its weapons to be inspected under the treaty for now because of travel restrictions imposed by Washington and its allies.

Ryabkov said the US announcement of an inspection on Russian territory delivered to Moscow while a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference was underway, had been the trigger for Russia to withdraw its cooperation.

"In the current circumstances, such a move looked like an outright provocation," he said.

He said Russia had believed the US wanted to work out a way to maintain two-way verification efforts despite the difficulties created by US sanctions and travel restrictions imposed in response to Moscow's "special military operation" in Ukraine.

The New START treaty, signed in 2010, limits the US and Russia to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

US President Joe Biden said on Aug 1 that his administration was ready to "expeditiously" negotiate a framework to replace New START, which is due to expire in 2026, if Moscow demonstrated its willingness to resume work on nuclear arms control.

On the additional military support for Ukraine, the US State Department has approved $89 million in assistance to help Ukraine equip and train 100 teams to clear land mines and unexploded ordnance for a year, an official said on Tuesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also reaffirmed their commitment to support Ukraine, the French presidential palace said on Tuesday.

Ukraine has received 50 Turkish-made Kirpi armored vehicles, Yuriy Mysyagin, deputy head of the Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence of Ukraine's legislature, said on Tuesday on Telegram.

Agencies via Xinhua

08:59 2022-08-11
12 vessels authorized to depart Ukrainian ports for grain export: UN official
A vessel in the second caravan of ships transporting grain from Ukraine passes through the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Türkiye, Aug 7, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

UNITED NATIONS - Under the Black Sea Initiative, 12 vessels have been authorized to depart the Ukrainian ports, a United Nations official coordinating the grain export deal said on Wednesday.

These ships contain "over 370,000 metric tons of grain and other food stocks", Frederick Kenney, interim coordinator for the UN at the Joint Coordination Center for the Black Sea Initiative, told a regular press briefing held at the UN headquarters in New York via video link from Istanbul, Türkiye.

The Ukraine grain export deal is off with a very good start, said Kenney, noting that a big "uptick" in applications for transit is expected.

"We still have much work ahead of us to ensure that the implementation of the initiative translates into real results to address food insecurity around the globe and to stabilize global food markets," he said.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine signed a deal with Türkiye and the United Nations to allow food and fertilizer exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea.

14:34 2022-08-10
Ammunition explodes in airfield in Crimea

Aviation munitions went off at an airfield in western Crimea on Tuesday, causing no casualties so far, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Several aviation munitions were detonated at a storage area on the territory of the Saki airfield near the settlement of Novofedorovka, the ministry said, adding that the blast caused no damage to aviation equipment. The ministry said measures are being taken to extinguish the fire and uncover the cause of the explosion. 

07:17 2022-08-09
Biden authorizes largest weapons package to Ukraine
A Ukrainian soldier covers an armored vehicle with branches in Donbass on April 12, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

WASHINGTON - The administration of US President Joe Biden announced Monday that the United States will provide Ukraine with $1 billion worth of additional security assistance, the largest one-time weapons package since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

According to a statement by the Department of Defense, the package - the 18th tranche of presidential drawdown since August 2021 - included additional munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), 75,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery ammunition, 20 120 mm mortar systems and 20,000 rounds of 120 mm mortar ammunition, as well as munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS).

Washington will also deliver to Kiev 1,000 Javelins, hundreds of AT4 anti-armor systems, 50 armored medical treatment vehicles, anti-personnel munitions, explosives, demolition munitions and demolition equipment, the statement said.

The just-announced aid brings total US commitment of security assistance to Ukraine to approximately 9.8 billion dollars since Biden took office, according to the Pentagon.

09:45 2022-08-08
2nd caravan of grain ships from Ukraine arrive in Istanbul
A vessel in the second caravan of ships transporting grain from Ukraine arrives at the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Türkiye, Aug 6, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

ISTANBUL - The second caravan of ships transporting grain from Ukraine arrived at the shores of Istanbul, according to the Turkish Defense Ministry on Saturday.

Panama-flagged Navistar, which sailed from the Ukrainian port of Odesa to Ireland with 33,000 tons of corn, arrived in Istanbul at around 2:00 pm local time (1100 GMT).

The Malta-flagged vessel Rojen, and Turkish-flagged Polarnet, both sailed from Chornomorsk port and bound for Britain and Türkiye respectively, arrived later.

According to the ministry, the inspection on Navistar was completed by a joint committee of specialists while the other two ships are due for inspection later.

The ships are checked for the integrity of their cargo before they can move on.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had discussions on Saturday with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov over the phone about the latest situation of grain shipments.

A statement by the Turkish Defense Ministry emphasized the satisfaction with the accelerating process of grain shipments and the levels of cooperation and coordination achieved by the Joint Coordination Center.

The first grain-laden ship Razoni passed through Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait on Aug 3, marking the first large export of the newly harvested Ukrainian grain to international markets after Türkiye, Russia, and Ukraine signed a landmark UN-backed deal on July 22.

Ukraine still has some 20 million tons of grain in silos waiting for shipment, according to the Turkish state-run Anadolu agency. 

09:16 2022-08-08
Ukraine, Russia trade accusations over nuclear plant strike
In this file photo taken on April 27, 2022 shows a general view of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV/MOSCOW - Ukraine and Russia exchanged accusations on Sunday over a fresh strike on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.

Zaporizhzhia is one of the largest atomic power complexes in Europe and generates a quarter of Ukraine's total electricity. It has been under the control of Russian forces since March and has been the scene of military strikes in recent days.

Ukraine's state-run nuclear energy operator Energoatom accused Russian forces of shelling the power plant, saying the latest rocket attacks on Saturday hit the area next to the plant's dry storage facility, where 174 containers with spent nuclear fuel were stored in the open air.

Energoatom said it is impossible to properly monitor the radiation situation at the site because three radiation monitoring detectors around the facility were damaged.

On Sunday, the TASS news agency reported that the administration of Energodar city, which is home to the nuclear power plant, blamed the Ukrainian army for the overnight attacks.

The city said Ukrainian troops launched a strike against the plant using the 220-mm Uragan multiple launch rocket system on Saturday night. The storage facility for spent nuclear fuel was in the affected area.

It added that the submunitions and the rocket engine fell within 400 meters of the operating power unit.

09:31 2022-08-05
3 more grain vessels set to sail from Ukraine on Friday
This handout picture taken and released by the Turkish Defence ministry press office on Aug 3, 2022, shows an inspection delegation member inspecting the Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni carrying 26,000 tonnes of corn from Ukraine, off the coast of north-west Istanbul. [Photo/Agencies]

ANKARA - Three ships loaded with grain and other food supplies that have been waiting in Ukrainian ports are scheduled to set sail on Friday, the semi-official Anadolu Agency reported on Thursday, quoting Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

Akar spoke on the phone separately with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov on Thursday to discuss the export of grain from Ukraine.

The first grain-laden cargo ship leaving the Ukrainian port under a UN-brokered deal anchored off Istanbul on the Black Sea and was inspected by a team of representatives from the recently established Joint Coordination Center (JCC) on Wednesday.

The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni left Odesa early on Monday with 26,527 tons of corn and sailed for Lebanon after the inspection was completed on Wednesday.

The JCC was inaugurated in Istanbul last week. It has a total of 20 representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations, and Türkiye to monitor the implementation of the grain shipment process.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine signed a deal with Türkiye and the United Nations to allow food and fertilizer exports from the Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, namely Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi.

The deal aims to allow safe passage for ships carrying grain to world markets amid concerns about food shortages due to the prolonged crisis in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine are major global wheat suppliers. 

09:57 2022-08-04
Ukraine needs to export 50 mln tons of grain in 2022-2023 marketing year: industry body
FILE PHOTO: Workers storage grain at a terminal during barley harvesting in Odesa region, Ukraine June 23, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukraine needs to export some 50 million tons of grain in the 2022-2023 marketing year amid the need to store last year's crops and grain from the new harvest, an industry body said on Wednesday.

Ukraine is set to harvest 55-60 million tons of cereals and oilseeds this year, with domestic demand projected to be 20 million tons, the Ukrainian Agri Council said in a statement.

Ukrainian farmers have already reaped some 12 million tons of cereals this year from 30 percent of the planted areas, the statement said.

Currently, Ukraine has 18-20 million tons of grain in its silos from last year's harvest, according to the Ukrainian government.

On July 22, Ukraine and Russia separately signed a deal with Türkiye and the United Nations in Istanbul to resume grain shipments from Ukrainian ports to international markets via the Black Sea.

In the 2021-2022 marketing year, Ukraine earned 22.2 billion US dollars from the export of 61.52 million tons of cereals and oilseeds between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022, the state-run Ukrinform news agency reported in early July.

09:07 2022-08-04
Russia accuses US of direct role in Ukraine conflict
Workers on Tuesday remove debris from the site of a student hostel destroyed by shelling in Mykolaiv, near the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. OLEKSANDR GIMANOV/AFP

ISTANBUL/LONDON-Russia on Tuesday accused the United States of direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict while the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since the beginning of the conflict anchored safely off the Turkish coast after a problem-free journey.

Russia said it was responding to comments by Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine's deputy head of military intelligence, about the way Kyiv had used US-made and supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, launchers based on what he called excellent satellite imagery and real-time information.

Skibitsky told Britain's Telegraph newspaper there was consultation between US and Ukrainian intelligence officials before strikes and that Washington had an effective veto on intended targets, though he said US officials were not providing direct targeting information.

Russia's Defense Ministry said the interview showed that Washington was entangled in the conflict despite repeated assertions that it was limiting its role to arms supplies because it did not want a direct confrontation with Moscow.

"All this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine," the ministry said in a statement.

The administration of US President Joe Biden "is directly responsible for all Kyiv-approved rocket attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in populated areas of Donbas and other regions, which have resulted in mass deaths of civilians", the statement said.

At the United Nations, a Russian diplomat said on Tuesday that the conflict in Ukraine does not warrant Russia's use of nuclear weapons, but Moscow could decide to use its nuclear arsenal in response to "direct aggression" by NATO countries.

In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday held a phone conversation with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to discuss assistance for Kyiv, the presidential press service reported.

At the talks, Zelensky informed Stoltenberg about the importance for Kyiv to get nonlethal military aid from NATO agreed upon during the alliance's Madrid summit in June.

In addition, Zelensky said that Ukraine is seeking to receive more heavy weapons from NATO member states.

Amid the fighting, Zelensky issued an order to all those remaining in the country's embattled Donetsk region to evacuate as soon as possible. The compulsory evacuation effort aims to take 200,000-220,000 people out of the eastern province by fall, officials said.

Safe passage

Meanwhile, a July 22 deal brokered by the UN to unblock the export of Ukrainian grain had initial success. Ankara said that the first loaded ship since the conflict began more than five months ago was safely anchored off Turkiye.

The vessel, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, was at the entrance of the Bosporus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to world markets, around 6 pm on Tuesday, some 36 hours after leaving the Ukrainian port of Odessa.

It was laden with 26,527 metric tons of corn.

"We hope that there will be some more outbound movement tomorrow," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

Dujarric said there were some 27 ships that were ready to go in the three Ukrainian ports covered by the export deal.

09:51 2022-08-03
Ukrainian president, NATO secretary-general discuss aid for Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday held a phone conversation with Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg to discuss assistance for Kyiv, the presidential press service reported.

At the talks, Zelensky informed Stoltenberg about the situation on the frontline in Ukraine and emphasized the importance for Kyiv to get non-lethal military aid from NATO agreed upon during the alliance's 2022 Madrid summit.

Besides, Zelensky said that Ukraine is seeking to receive more heavy weapons from NATO member states.

The parties also discussed the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine via the Black Sea ports and the prospects of NATO's assistance in humanitarian demining in Ukraine.

At the NATO summit in the Spanish capital on June 29-30, the members of the alliance agreed to provide support for Ukraine in multiple areas, including secure communications, cyber defenses and resilience, fuel, and medical supplies.

09:46 2022-08-03
1st grain ship leaving Ukraine anchors off Istanbul for inspection
Photo taken on July 27, 2022 shows a view of the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, Türkiye. [Photo/Xinhua]

ISTANBUL - The first grain-laden cargo ship leaving the Ukrainian port under a UN-brokered deal anchors off Istanbul on the Black Sea on Tuesday, waiting to be inspected by the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) before it resumes the voyage to Lebanon.

The Turkish Defence Ministry tweeted that the Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni, which left Odesa early on Monday with 26,527 tons of corn, has reached the Black Sea entrance of the Bosphorus Strait and anchored at an assigned point.

The ship will receive an inspection by representatives from the JCC at 10 am local time (0700 GMT) on Wednesday.

The ministry is organizing a special program at a location on the shore with a perfect view of the site to enable press members to cover the delegation's boarding the ship.

Once cleared, it will pass through the strait, sailing toward the Mediterranean as planned, and the JCC will closely monitor the vessel until it arrives at the destination.

"The route and the humanitarian corridor that the ship follows, possible needs, and the details and preparations regarding its inspection are carried out in line with the procedures and principles agreed at the center," Turkish Rear Admiral Ozcan Altunbulak told reporters at the center on Tuesday.

He also said currently, the preparations of the other ships that will carry grain and other foodstuffs from the three ports of Ukraine are continuing.

The JCC was inaugurated in Istanbul last week. It has a total of 20 representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Türkiye to monitor the implementation of the grain shipment process.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine signed a deal with Türkiye and the United Nations to allow food and fertilizer exports from the Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, namely Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi. 

07:31 2022-08-03
Hopes riding on grain shipment from Odessa
By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels
The Razoni, carrying 26,000 tons of corn, leaves the port of Odessa bound for Tripoli, Lebanon, on Monday. OLEKSANDR GIMANOV/AFP

First sailing from Ukrainian port after deal heralded as step to ease food crisis

The departure on Monday of a grain shipment from the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa, the first since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in February, has been welcomed around the world as a major move toward easing a global food crisis.

The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni left with more than 26,000 tons of corn destined for the Mediterranean port of Tripoli in Lebanon.

Russia, Ukraine and Turkiye inked an agreement overseen by the United Nations on July 22 in the Turkish city of Istanbul to allow the export of grain and fertilizer by Ukraine and Russia. The arrangement is known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

"The day of relief for the world, especially for our friends in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, as the first Ukrainian grain leaves Odessa after months of Russian blockade," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a tweet.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the Razoni's departure "very positive" news, saying it would help test the "efficiency of the mechanisms that were agreed to during the talks in Istanbul".

Russia has blamed Western sanctions for slowing its exports and Ukraine for mining the approaches to its ports.

Before the Razoni's departure, Ukrainian officials said 17 ships were docked in Black Sea ports with some 600,000 tons of cargo, mostly grain.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Monday that ensuring "existing grain and foodstuffs can move to global markets is a humanitarian imperative".

"The secretary-general salutes their efforts, and he is grateful to Turkiye for its leadership," the UN statement said.

"The secretary-general hopes that this will be the first of many commercial ships moving in accordance with the initiative signed, and that this will bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security, especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts."

Urgent needs

Guterres told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York that the ship was loaded with two commodities in short supply: "corn and hope".

"People on the verge of famine need these agreements to work, in order to survive. Countries on the verge of bankruptcy need these agreements to work, in order to keep their economies alive," he said.

Ukraine and Russia account for nearly a third of global wheat imports, with the two countries supplying more than 45 million tons annually, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative allows for significant volumes of exports from Odessa and nearby Chernomorsk and Yuzhny. Inspection teams will monitor the loading of grain at the ports. Ukrainian pilot vessels will guide the ships through the Black Sea, after which they will head out through the Bosporus Strait, passing Istanbul, along an agreed corridor.

Abdulla Shahid, president of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, said in a tweet: "This is a collective achievement of the Joint Coordination Center. Multilateralism works!" He was referring to the JCC established in Istanbul with representatives from the three signatory nations under the grain initiative.

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano told a daily news conference on Monday that the European Union welcomes the departure of the ship from Odessa. "This was the first step toward mitigating the global food crisis," he said.

"We look forward to the implementation of the whole deal and resumption of the Ukrainian exports to the customers all around the world."

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director-general of the World Trade Organization, said in a tweet that the "planned departure of more grain should hopefully bring intl. grain prices down, aid humanitarian purchases & have a positive impact on poor people going hungry in poor countries".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that "this work, initiated under the leadership of our country, is an important diplomatic success".

The Razoni was scheduled to dock in Istanbul early on Wednesday, when teams of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials will board the ship for inspection.

09:35 2022-08-02
UN chief welcomes 1st sailing of vessel from Ukraine's Odesa under grain export deal
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L, Front) speaks to the press at the UN headquarters in New York, on Aug 1, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday welcomed the first commercial vessel sailing from Ukraine's Odesa under the Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye.

The cargo ship loaded with more than 26,000 tons of corn should arrive at the inspection location in Turkish territorial waters on Tuesday. Following inspection, it will proceed to its final destination in Tripoli, Lebanon, said Guterres.

"This ship, the Merchant Vessel Razoni, is loaded with two commodities in short supply: corn, and hope. Hope for millions of people around the world who depend on the smooth running of Ukraine's ports to feed their families," he told reporters.

The ship's departure is the first concrete result of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. "Today's departure is an enormous collective achievement by the Joint Coordination Center, set up last week in Istanbul under UN auspices, with representatives from Ukraine, Russia, and Türkiye," Guterres said.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, signed by Russia and Ukraine with Türkiye under the UN on July 22, would allow significant volumes of food and fertilizer exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, namely Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.

The deal aims to ensure the safe passage for ships carrying grain to world markets amid concerns about food shortages due to the prolonged crisis in Ukraine.

"What we've witnessed today in Odesa is an important starting point. It must be the first of many commercial ships bringing relief and stability to global food markets," said Guterres.

"Together with the agreed facilitation of the unimpeded access of Russian food products and fertilizers to world markets, it will bring relief and stability to global food markets and help tackle the global food crisis," he added.

Ensuring that grain, fertilizers, and other food-related items are available at reasonable prices to developing countries is a humanitarian imperative. People on the verge of famine need these agreements to work, in order to survive. Countries on the verge of bankruptcy need these agreements to work, in order to keep their economies alive, he said.

In line with the humanitarian spirit of the initiative, the World Food Programme is planning to purchase, load and ship an initial 30,000 metric tons of wheat out of Ukraine on a UN-chartered vessel, said the UN chief.

The conflict in Ukraine must end, and peace must be established, in line with the UN Charter and international law, he said. "I hope today's news can be a step toward that goal, for the people of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and for the world."

While this tragic conflict continues to rage, the United Nations is working every day to bring relief to the people of Ukraine, and to those suffering the effects of the conflict around the world, he said.

The parties to the initiative have worked tirelessly to reach this milestone, with the support of the United Nations and Türkiye, he noted.

"After speaking to my colleagues, I know they worked practically all night, sleeping for just one hour -- like all the other delegations at the Joint Coordination Center (in Istanbul). It is thanks to their commitment that the Razoni was able to leave Odesa safely. I salute their efforts, and I am grateful to Türkiye for its leadership," he said.

In a press release, the Joint Coordination Center (JCC), which was established under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, affirmed that it has authorized the Razoni to sail from Odesa.

"The JCC has agreed to the specific coordinates and restrictions of the Safe Humanitarian Maritime Corridor and has communicated those details in accordance with international navigation procedures. The JCC has requested all its participants to inform their respective military and other relevant authorities of this decision to ensure the safe passage of the vessel," it said.

The JCC is monitoring the safe passage of the vessel through the Safe Humanitarian Maritime Corridor, it added.

The JCC comprises senior representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Türkiye and the United Nations.

09:31 2022-08-02
1st grain-laden ship from Ukraine to anchor off Istanbul for inspection: Turkish ministry
The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship, Razoni carrying Ukrainian grain leaves the port, in Odesa, Ukraine, Aug 1, 2022, in this screen grab taken from a handout video. [Photo/Agencies]

ISTANBUL - The first cargo ship carrying grain from Ukraine would anchor off Istanbul in the early hours of Wednesday Aug 3 for a joint inspection as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced Monday.

The ministry said in a written message that the vessel will not enter any port and the inspections will be carried out at the anchorage point on the sea.

A team of the Joint Coordination Center composed of representatives from Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and Türkiye will board the ship for inspection at 8 am local time (0500 GMT) on Wednesday.

The Coast Guard Command will take necessary measures to ensure that no other boat will approach the vessel, according to the ministry.

"If there is no problem, afterward, hopefully, the vessel will continue on its journey," Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a televised speech.

The Sierra Leone-flagged dry cargo ship Razoni left Ukraine's Odesa port on Monday morning for Tripoli in Lebanon. Carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn, Razoni will pass through the Bosphorus Strait and sail to the Mediterranean.

Akar noted that the passage of other cargo ships with the same methodology through the "determined corridor" is also planned as part of the agreement signed in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter that the agreement will lead to a cease-fire and lasting peace and Türkiye will do what is necessary to this end.

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov also announce on his social media accounts that the vessel Razoni would move along a corridor whose safety has been confirmed by Ukraine's guarantor partners, "the UN and Türkiye".

Kubrakov said Ukraine is the world's fourth largest exporter of corn, and the opportunity of exporting its products is a "colossal success" for ensuring global food security.

According to the minister, 16 more ships are waiting for their turn at Odesa port.

"In the coming weeks, with the support of our partners, we plan to reach the full capacity for the shipment of agricultural products," he noted.

Last week, the Joint Coordination Center was inaugurated in Istanbul. It has a total of 20 representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the United nations and Türkiye to monitor the implementation of the grain shipment process.

The center will track the journey of the ships from Ukraine to guarantee their safe passages on the Black Sea, and conduct controls both at Ukrainian ports and in Türkiye.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine signed a deal with Türkiye and the United Nations to allow food and fertilizer exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi.

19:26 2022-08-01
1st ship with grain leaves Ukraine's Black Sea port
The vessel Razoni under the flag of Sierra Leone carrying 26,000 tons of corn departs from the Black Sea port of Odesa in southern Ukraine, on Aug 1, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - The first cargo ship carrying grain has left the Black Sea port of Odesa in southern Ukraine, Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Monday.

The vessel Razoni under the flag of Sierra Leone carrying 26,000 tons of corn is bound for the port of Tripoli in Lebanon, Kubrakov wrote on Facebook.

He said the ship will move along a maritime corridor, the security of which was guaranteed by Türkiye and the United Nations.

The resumption of Ukraine's grain exports would help to prevent a global food crisis, contribute at least 1 billion US dollars to the Ukrainian economy and pave the way for the country's farmers to prepare for next year's sowing campaign, Kubrakov said.

The cargo ship will first reach Istanbul in Türkiye for inspection on Tuesday, where it will be inspected by a joint monitoring center according to an agreement that Russia and Ukraine made with Türkiye and the United Nations, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday.

Following Razoni, other convoys will set off from the Ukrainian port of Odesa, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.

Türkiye inaugurated the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul last week to monitor the implementation of the grain shipment process. The center consists of 20 representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Türkiye and the United Nations, with five from each party.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, signed by Russia and Ukraine with Türkiye under the UN, would allow significant volumes of food and fertilizer exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, namely Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny.

The deal aims to ensure the safe passage for ships carrying grain to world markets amid concerns about food shortages due to the prolonged crisis in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine are major global wheat suppliers. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the deal will enable Ukraine to export 20 million tons of last year's grain harvest and part of this year's harvest.

09:32 2022-08-01
Russia asks UN, Red Cross to look at prisoner deaths
Emergency workers search for people under the rubble after Russian shelling in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, on Friday. DIEGO HERRERA CARCEDO/ANADOLU AGENCY

ODESSA-Russia has invited United Nations and Red Cross experts to investigate the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners, and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered the evacuation of residents in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Hundreds of thousands of people were still exposed to fierce fighting in the Donbas region, in which Donetsk and Lugansk provinces are located, Zelensky said.

"Many refuse to leave, but it still needs to be done," he said in a televised address late on Saturday.

Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations over a missile strike or explosion early on Friday that appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners in the frontline town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.

Russia invited experts from the UN and Red Cross to look into the deaths "in the interests of conducting an objective investigation", the defense ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry had published a list of 50 Ukrainian prisoners killed and 73 wounded in what it said was a Ukrainian military strike with a US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

Ukraine's armed forces denied responsibility.

Also on Sunday, a senior official in Crimea accused Ukraine of carrying out a drone attack before planned celebrations to mark Navy Day, injuring five and forcing festivities to be called off.

The accusation came hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to oversee Navy Day celebrations in his hometown of St Petersburg and approve Russia's naval doctrine.

"An unidentified object flew into the courtyard of the fleet's headquarters," said Mikhail Razvozhayev, governor of Sevastopol, home to Russia's Black Sea fleet.

"According to preliminary information it is a drone."

Ukraine had decided to "spoil Navy Day for us", he said.

Ukraine's defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Five employees of the fleet headquarters had been injured, and the Federal Security Service was investigating its circumstances, Razvozhayev said.

On Saturday the Russian state-run energy company Gazprom suspended gas supplies to Latvia.

"Today Gazprom suspended its gas supplies to Latvia… due to violations of the conditions" of purchase, the company said.

Gazprom cut gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline on Wednesday to about 20 percent of its capacity. It had reduced gas flows to Europe twice in June.

Gazprom ascribed the halted operation of one of the last two operating turbines for the pipeline to the "technical condition of the engine".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has blamed European Union sanctions for the limited supply.

Agencies via Xinhua

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