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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.

Russia and Ukraine each signed a deal in Istanbul Friday respectively with Türkiye and the United Nations to resume grain shipments to international markets via the Black Sea.

The EU on Thursday imposed more sanctions on Russia, including a ban on gold imports and the tightening of export controls on high-technology goods.

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

09:58 2022-07-29
EU hard-pressed by energy crisis
By WANG MINGJIE in London
FILE PHOTO: Fuel prices at a Shell gas station in Colombes, near Paris, France, February 2, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Eurozone feels impacts of soaring inflation, pinched incomes, less consumer confidence

The European economy is facing strong headwinds as the energy crisis fueled by the Russia-Ukraine conflict takes its toll on the eurozone, driving up inflation, squeezing household incomes and weakening consumer confidence. Experts said such downward pressure is likely to increase as winter approaches.

In its latest economic forecast, the European Commission projects that the economy of the European Union will grow 2.7 percent in 2022 and 1.5 percent in 2023. Growth in the euro area is expected to be 2.6 percent in 2022, moderating to 1.4 percent in 2023. All the predictions are much weaker than the spring forecast.

Annual average inflation is now projected to hit what would be a historical high of 7.6 percent this year in the euro area and 8.3 percent in the EU, an upward revision of 1.5 percent from the previous forecast, according to the commission.

In a move to tackle soaring inflation in the eurozone, the European Central Bank raised interest rates for the first time in 11 years by 0.5 percentage point on July 21.

John Beirne, vice-chair of research at the Asian Development Bank Institute, a think tank, and a former economist at the European Central Bank, said the economic outlook for Europe is strongly linked to the energy market implications of the Ukraine conflict.

"A higher cost of living, disproportionately affecting low-income households, presents challenges for European policymakers in an environment of a weaker growth outlook," he added.

Beirne pointed out that stagflation is a key concern in Europe, with high inflation driven by negative supply shocks in energy markets and global supply chains hampering economic growth via consumption and production.

Michel Ruimy, an economist and affiliate professor at ESCP Business School, said: "The combination of low growth and high inflation raises the specter of stagflation. This situation is likely to make the European Central Bank's task even more difficult."

To counter inflation, the European Central Bank can raise its key interest rate, but a monetary tightening will increase the cost of borrowing for businesses and households, which could ultimately weigh on consumption and investment, Ruimy said.

The European Commission warned in its latest analysis that the EU economy remains vulnerable to developments in energy markets, given its reliance on Russian fossil fuels. The concern was intensified when Russia shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which carries Russian natural gas to Germany, for a 10-day maintenance period. Much to Brussels' and Berlin's relief, the gas supply was resumed on July 21, albeit at a lower capacity.

"Engaging in an 'arm wrestling match' with a country on which one depends to cover one's energy needs, especially gas, is the unique situation in which the European Union finds itself, which will have to pay more for its energy, pollute more and ration more," Ruimy said.

Beirne said: "With Russia accounting for around 40 percent of Europe's gas imports and around 25 percent of crude oil, a complete shutdown heavily increases the vulnerability of the continent to an energy crisis. The exposure will become more pronounced as the colder months approach."

Analysts said the situation in Ukraine has highlighted key areas in which structural reforms need to be ramped up at the EU level.

"Diversifying the energy supply mix in Europe, particularly toward renewable and sustainable energy, would help to mitigate against exposure to sharp commodity price shocks in specific markets. Fiscal policies aimed at improving energy efficiency are also an important aspect," Beirne said.

European economic woes have also prompted its currency to slip, with the euro hitting parity against the dollar, falling to its lowest level since December 2002.

Christopher Bovis, a professor of international business law at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, said the fact that the euro has hit parity with the US dollar for the first time in 20 years is an acute indication of the economic deterioration of EU economies.

"The gradual weakening of the euro is attributed in the stagnation of major eurozone countries and the limited gains in productivity (amid COVID-19 recovery). The US dollar has emerged again as the preferred reserve currency, a fact which has contributed to the parity currency environment," Bovis said, adding that the eurozone economies will have to realize that parity of the euro with the US dollar is the new norm.

However, David DeRemer, an assistant professor of economics at Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Business in Kazakhstan, said that euro-dollar parity is not just due to the euro's weakness, but also the dollar's strength.

"The case for temporary US dollar strength is that the Federal Reserve just raised rates aggressively and the current situation of higher US interest rates will not last long, but euro weakness will instead persist if geopolitical instability worsens.

"The euro-dollar parity, however symbolic, is not of substantial macroeconomic consequence, aside from continuing the trend of euro depreciation that has been ongoing since 2008. European goods and tourism again become cheaper for Americans, and Europe will import some inflationary pressure from the US," he added.

Bovis said, "The future of the European economic recovery is highly dependent on the situation in the energy sector.

"The energy security issue which has emerged as the main shortcoming of the EU is the primary pathogen case of the weakening of the EU currency," he added. "Eventually, energy concerns will be rectified, but for the first time the energy sector has played such a catalytic role in destabilizing a currency."

09:46 2022-07-29
S. Africa feels strain from rising inflation
By NDUMISO MLILO in Johannesburg, South Africa
FILE PHOTO: A shopper walks past a Foschini store at a shopping centre in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, South Africa, August 28, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

South Africa faces rising inflation, sluggish economic growth and declining business and consumer confidence that are attributed to the effect of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Data from Statistics South Africa shows that annual consumer inflation increased from 6.5 percent in May to 7.4 percent in June, mainly driven by rising transport and food prices. The last time South Africa recorded such a high increase was 8 percent during the global financial crisis in 2008.

Imraan Valodia, vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, told China Daily that South Africa's low economic growth and international supply chain disruptions caused by the conflict are affecting the country, which has affected some production with some big and small enterprises feeling the pinch.

"We are facing load shedding, rising inflation and this puts a lot of pressure on the budget of households. There is rising poverty and unemployment, which is a major concern," said Valodia, adding that the Russia-Ukraine conflict has caused food and fuel prices to skyrocket globally amid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. "The government is struggling to get the economy growing."

He explained that South Africa is feeling the shocks of the "fragile global economy". Oil prices increased to about $130 per barrel after the conflict started and is now around $106 per barrel. This has resulted in the volatility of the South African rand. Valodia said the government should improve the infrastructure and efficiency of the country's ports to enhance trade.

Somadoda Fikeni, commissioner of South Africa's Public Service Commission, said the country is plagued by growing unemployment particularly among the youths, growing inequality and food insecurity.

Fikeni said the pandemic also contributed to the problems and the country is facing projections of recession in other areas.

"We are seeing rising inflation, cost of living going up, and fuel prices challenges with energy crisis," he said.

Fikeni said the effects of climate change like floods and drought have hit the country too. In April, KwaZulu-Natal Province was affected by floods which killed 459 people and destroyed infrastructure worth millions of dollars.

The South African Reserve Bank has increased the repo rate by 75 basis points, the highest since September 2002 owing to inflationary pressures. South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago attributed it to increases in food and fuel prices among other factors.

South Africa's GDP is expected to rise by 2 percent this year and slow down to 1.3 percent next year, according to the central bank's forecast. It predicts headline inflation to rise by 6.5 percent with higher food, fuel and core inflation being the main drivers.

The writer is a freelance writer for China Daily.

09:41 2022-07-29
Development stressed for peace efforts
By ZHAO RUINAN

Experts called on Thursday for more action in promoting peace and development, the themes of the times, amid the ongoing tension in Ukraine and growing uncertainty worldwide.

The remarks were made at a seminar held by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. The seminar is titled: Peace and Development as Themes of Era: Opportunities and Challenges.

Peace and development are facing grave challenges, with the Ukraine crisis lingering and rifts among major countries widening, said Zhang Guanzi, secretary-general of the National Top Think Tank committee at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, adding that only through cooperation and exchanges can countries avoid conflict and confrontation and achieve common development.

"Traditional security threats have haunted the world with the ongoing war in Syria and the recent conflict in Ukraine. Meanwhile, food shortage and energy crisis rising from the conflict have plunged many counties into misery. Not to mention the deteriorating global economy and record-high inflation," Zhang said.

Combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still raging around the world, Zhang said the situation in the world has become more complex, unstable and uncertain.

It is at this very moment that the world is in great need of peaceful and stable development, he said. "Peace and development, the themes and the trend of our times, has been deeply rooted in the hearts of the people all over the world, and the desire for peace, development and cooperation is even stronger," Zhang said.

Xing Guangcheng, head of the Institute of Chinese Borderland Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, warned that the Cold War mentality is still alive and tearing the world apart.

"The United States still holds the mentality of hegemony though the Cold War was over. The US has not dropped the unipolar thinking. So, the world has remained in a largely peaceful status over the past decades, but some dangerous conflicts and frictions have popped up from time to time," Xing said.

The US and some other Western countries have been intervening in other countries' domestic affairs and even use military force, posing great threat to world peace, he said.

Rashid Alimov, former secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, praised China's contributions to global peace and development, calling for more dialogue between different cultures.

"The idea to build a community with a shared future for humanity, proposed by the Chinese president, has become more urgent to implement and is more in line with our current needs," he said.

China is doing well in economic growth, technological development and COVID-19 vaccine distribution, which contributes a lot to global development, Alimov said.

09:21 2022-07-29
Grain deal may boost Russia-Ukraine trust: Turkish FM
Russia and Ukraine are signing an agreement with Turkey and the United Nations on shipping Ukrainian grain, foodstuff, and fertilizer to international markets via the Black Sea in Istanbul, on July 22, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

ISTANBUL - The Turkish foreign minister said on Thursday that the Russian-Ukraine grain corridor deal could boost trust between the two sides if implemented properly.

Mevlut Cavusoglu made the remarks in Istanbul during a press briefing following a meeting with Georgian Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili.

"If implemented properly, the agreement could be a very crucial boost of trust between both sides," Cavusoglu said, noting the deal would allow the exports of not only Ukrainian grains but also Russian fertilizers.

Speaking of the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul that has become operational, the Turkish minister said he hopes the exports will be continuous and reach the countries in urgent need.

"In conflict, everybody loses, and similarly, in peace, everybody wins, as long as a just peace is established," said Cavusoglu, answering a question regarding whether the agreement could lead to a meeting of the opposing sides at foreign ministerial level.

"This conflict will end at a diplomatic table, no doubt. We exercise utmost efforts to bring the sides to the same table, and if they're ready, we would indeed be the host of such an endeavor," he added.

Cavusoglu also detailed some of the plans to increase cooperation between Türkiye and Georgia, including improving the logistics between the two countries as well as expansions of the current free trade deals.

Russia and Ukraine each signed a deal in Istanbul last Friday, respectively with Türkiye and the United Nations, to resume grain shipments to international markets via the Black Sea.

The Joint Coordination Center was opened on Wednesday to monitor the implementation of the grain shipments from Ukraine. 

16:35 2022-07-28
UN chief welcomes inauguration of Joint Coordination Center

UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday welcomed the official inauguration of the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul as "a platform to help operationalize the Black Sea Grain Initiative".

The UN chief thanked the Russian Federation and Ukraine "for nominating and quickly sending their senior representatives to Istanbul," said a statement released by the secretary-general's deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.

Guterres underscored the importance of the parties working in partnership directly to effectively implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative with a view to reducing global food insecurity.

"The work of the JCC will enable the safe transportation, by merchant ships, of grain and related foodstuffs and fertilizers from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea to the rest of the world. This will help to effectively respond to and prevent rising global food insecurity," said the statement.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, signed respectively by Russia and Ukraine on Friday with Türkiye under the auspices of the UN in Istanbul, would allow significant volumes of commercial food and fertilizer exports from three key ports in the Black Sea -- Odesa, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhny, according to the UN.

09:05 2022-07-28
Joint coordination center for Ukraine's grain shipment opens in Istanbul
Photo taken on July 27, 2022 shows the Joint Coordination Center for Ukraine's grain shipments in Istanbul, Türkiye. [Photo/Xinhua]

ISTANBUL - Türkiye inaugurated the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul on Wednesday to monitor the implementation of the grain shipment from Ukraine, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters.

Located inside the compound of a military university in the city's European side district of Besiktas, the center consists of 20 representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations, five from each party, according to Akar.

This will guarantee the safe passage of vessels from Ukrainian ports through the Black Sea and the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul to global markets, said the minister.

At the command center, the representatives were seated around a large square table. A map on a big screen was showing the details of the Black Sea and the locations of several vessels.

"This center will register and follow the commercial ships that will be included in the initiative. It will technically track the journey of the ships through satellite, internet, and other means of communication," Akar said, speaking of The Black Sea Grain Initiative signed in Istanbul on Friday.

Ships will be inspected by joint inspection teams at locations deemed appropriate upon loading at Ukrainian ports and arrival at ports in Türkiye, according to Akar.

"If there is a need for demining, plans agreed by all parties would be made. However, there is no need at this stage," he added.

Earlier, a source who asked to be identified as "a senior UN official" told Xinhua that the shipments will be inspected to make sure there will be no transportation of weapons.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said he hoped the deal would work, according to media reports.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar is speaking at the Joint Coordination Center for Ukraine's grain shipments in Istanbul, Türkiye on July 27, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

The press service of the Ukrainian Naval Forces said in a statement on Wednesday that operations have resumed in the Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and Pivdenny in line with the grain exports deal signed last week in Türkiye.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that the deal would allow both Ukraine and Russia to export their products.

"There are products to be exported by Russia as well, and the deal paves the way for it. Likewise, it paves the way for the export of Ukraine's grain, sunflower, and sunflower oil," he said on TV100 broadcaster.

Cavusoglu pointed out that Türkiye would continue to play its constructive role to ensure the plan runs smoothly.

Russia and Ukraine signed respectively the initiative with Türkiye under the UN auspices on Friday, which would allow significant volumes of food and fertilizer exports from three key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea. 

09:47 2022-07-27
Odessa port strike shouldn't affect grain export deal, says Kremlin
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. [Photo/Agencies]

A recent strike carried out by Russian armed forces on Ukrainian military infrastructure in the port of Odessa should not affect the start of grain exports, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced Sunday that the country's armed forces launched a missile attack on the territory of a shipyard in Odessa, destroying a Ukrainian military ship and a depot with US Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

"This (strike) is only linked to military infrastructure. This is in no way connected with the infrastructure that will be used to fulfill the agreements and export grain," Peskov said commenting on the attack.

09:33 2022-07-27
Ukraine to get 1.6 bln euros from European Investment Bank: PM

KYIV - Ukraine will get some 1.6 billion euros (about 1.62 billion US dollars) from the European Investment Bank (EIB), Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal announced on Tuesday.

"Yesterday, the European Investment Bank agreed to disburse 1.6 billion euros to Ukraine, with 1 billion euros out of this sum to be allocated promptly," Shmyhal told a cabinet meeting, according to the government's press service.

Shmyhal said the funds will be directed for the activities to prepare Ukraine for the heating season, including the restoration of damaged electricity, water and heat supply facilities.

According to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Ukraine will also use part of the funding from the EIB to finance projects in energy efficiency, roads, transport, education, infrastructure and other sectors.

Kyiv plans to raise 20 billion dollars in international aid from its Western partners by the end of 2022, said Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko at a public event last month.

09:19 2022-07-27
CEE nations shoulder a big burden as refugees flow in from Ukraine
By Jia Ruixia
Refugees from Ukraine play chess at the Humanitarian Aid Center set up at the Global Expo exhibition hall in Warsaw on July 15, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on Feb 24, millions of refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighboring countries or moved farther westward, with Europe now experiencing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

As of June 29, over 3.6 million refugees from Ukraine had registered for a temporary protection mechanism or similar national protection program in Europe, according to data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The vast majority of refugees fleeing Ukraine are elderly people, women and children, as well as Syrian refugees who had fled to Ukraine several years ago. According to UNHCR data, over 1.98 million Ukrainian refugees are currently in European Union countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Poland remains the country that has taken the highest number of refugees from Ukraine, hosting over 1.19 million refugees, followed by the Czech Republic (more than 380,000), Bulgaria (over 118,000), Slovakia (over 79,000), Lithuania (around 58,000), Romania (over 40,000), Latvia (over 34,000), Estonia (over 28,000), Hungary (over 25,800), Croatia (over 15,000), and Slovenia (around 6,860). The 11 EU countries in Central and Eastern Europe have together hosted more than 55 percent of all refugees from Ukraine.

Although most Ukrainian refugees only pass through Central and Eastern European countries or briefly stop over before moving on to other EU countries, the sudden mass influx of refugees has posed a huge challenge for governments and society of CEE countries. All governments, under the support of EU mechanisms, have used domestic resources and mobilized the public and the entire society to demonstrate hospitability and enthusiasm toward Ukrainian refugees in dire need of help.

The Chinese communities in some Central and Eastern European countries have also made generous donations and offered help to Ukrainian refugees.

The EU's various supporting mechanisms have been central to CEE countries' capacity in hosting millions of refugees from Ukraine. On March 4, the EU activated the Temporary Protection Directive, which aims to alleviate pressure on national asylum systems of EU member countries and allows displaced people to enjoy harmonized rights across the EU-including residence, access to the labor market and housing, medical assistance, social welfare assistance and access to education for children. The temporary protection will last for at least one year and up to three years.

The EU has been offering financial support for member states hosting refugees. In April, the EU approved three regulations unlocking more than 20 billion euros ($20.3 billion) in funds, which will ensure that member states hosting refugees have sufficient resources to meet the growing needs for housing, education and healthcare. Also in April, the Council of the EU adopted a regulation, the Cohesion' Action for Refugees in Europe, which allows for the swift release and reallocation of cohesion policy funding. The EU's cohesion policy aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion by reducing disparities in the level of development between regions.

EU member states can use a total of up to 9.5 billion euros of funds that are still not programmed under the 2022 portion of the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe, REACT-EU. They can also use all unallocated resources under the 2014-20 period (around 7 billion euros). Also in April, the Council of the EU approved a regulation allowing for the immediate disbursement of an additional 3.5 billion euros, under REACT-EU, to EU countries welcoming refugees.

Immediately after the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out, Central and Eastern European countries neighboring on Ukraine started to host a mass influx of displaced people from Ukraine and other countries fleeing the conflict. In early March, many CEE countries, such as Latvia, Slovakia and Bulgaria, approved laws granting temporary protection to displaced people, providing a framework for hosting refugees. The Polish Parliament also approved laws on hosting Ukrainian refugees.

Refugees from Ukraine enjoy quasi-citizenship across CEE countries, which is in line with the principles of EU directives.

In Poland, Ukrainian refugees have been granted the right to obtain a Polish national identity number, and authorities have established a program to provide 270 euros a month to households for each Ukrainian refugee they shelter for two months.

The Czech Republic, with the second-highest number of refugees from Ukraine, has streamlined a process to issue emergency visas to Ukrainian refugees. It estimates that a total of 1.33 billion euros is needed to address the ongoing refugee crisis. The Czech Republic has recently taken over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU and has vowed to make coping with the refugee crisis its first priority.

Bulgaria's one-year temporary protection regime for Ukrainian refugees took effect on Feb 24, earlier than the rollout of EU programs. In Slovakia, refugees from Ukraine can take public transportation for free and have minimum standard living expenses covered. As of the beginning of July, 1.45 million Ukrainian refugees had entered Romania, but most of them have moved farther westward to Western European countries. Romania has set up 1,238 refugee centers and allowed domestic universities to increase enrollment by 20 percent to provide convenience for refugee students. Latvia has set up assistance centers in Riga, wherein Ukrainian refugees have access to affordable housing, job opportunities and medical and social assistance.

In addition, Ukrainian refugees can enter Croatia by presenting a passport or other ID card at the border. The government of Croatia has set up three refugee affairs centers to provide services for Ukrainian refugees and offered free public transportation, school lunches and use of sports facilities to Ukrainian children.

Hosting refugees requires a large amount of money, and financial support from the EU is not enough to cover all countries' actual needs. Central and Eastern European countries are currently confronted with financial risks amid economic plight, and their negotiations with the EU over increasing support will continue.

The author is a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies.

09:12 2022-07-26
Ukraine plans to start grain exports via seaports this week

KYIV - Ukraine is preparing to start grain exports via the Black Sea ports this week under the grain deal signed last week in Türkiye, Ukrainian officials said on Monday.

Speaking at a media briefing aired on the Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry's Facebook page, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the movement of ships from the Black Sea ports is due to start by the end of the current week.

The demining process will be carried out exclusively in the corridor for the passage of cargo ships, and all ship caravans will be accompanied by Ukrainian rescue vessels, Kubrakov said.

Ukrainian Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yurii Vaskov, who also participated in the briefing, said the first grain deliveries will be made from the port of Chornomorsk.

"We expect the first shipment to be made this week," Vaskov said.

Within two weeks, Ukraine also plans to start exporting grain through the ports of Odesa and Pivdenny, Vaskov added.

According to him, the coordination center tasked with supervising and coordinating the functioning of the humanitarian corridor will start its work on July 27.

The supplies of Ukrainian grain to the global market have been affected in recent months due to the blockade of the Ukrainian seaports by the Russian military.

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.

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. 

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