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Amid war, Ukraine and Russia sign pact to relieve global food crisis

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The hostilities between Moscow and Kyiv spread to the signing ceremony. AFP

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Ukraine and Russia on Friday signed a historic deal aimed at halting grain supplies in the Black Sea, ending months of talks and preventing the global food crisis by plunging wheat prices to levels seen before Moscow’s invasion. to give relief.

The first major deal between the warring parties since the February invasion of Ukraine should help ease “acute hunger” that the United Nations says causes an additional 47 million people to suffer because of the war.

Hostilities between Moscow and Kyiv spilled over into the signing ceremony – delayed for some time by disputes about the display of flags around the table and Ukraine’s refusal to put their names on the same document as the Russians.

The two sides eventually reached separate but similar agreements at the opulent Dolmabas Palace in Istanbul in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Today, there is a lighthouse on the Black Sea – a ray of hope, a ray of possibility, a ray of relief,” Guterres said moments before signing.

Erdogan – a key player in the talks, which has good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv – said the deal “hopes to revive the path of peace”.

But Ukraine entered the ceremony by explicitly warning that it would have an “immediate military response” if Russia violates the agreement and attacks its ships or makes incursions around its ports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later said that the responsibility of implementing the deal would rest with the United Nations, which is a co-guarantor of the deal with Turkey.

20 lakh ton wheat

The agreement covers points to run Ukrainian grain ships along secure corridors that avoid known mines in the Black Sea.

Huge quantities of wheat and other grain have been blocked by Russian warships and landmines in Ukraine’s ports to avert a possible amphibious attack.

Estimating the value of Ukraine’s grain stock at about $10 billion, Zelensky said under the agreement about 20 million tonnes of production from last year’s crop and the current crop would be exported.

Following the deal, wheat prices fell to levels seen before Russia’s invasion – even as some analysts expressed skepticism about the deal.

In Chicago, the price of wheat for September delivery fell 5.9 percent to $7.59 a bushel, roughly equivalent to 27 kilograms. Prices in Europe have dropped the same way.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Kremlin state media after attending the signing ceremony that he expected the deal to start working “in the next few days”.

He pointed out that Russia managed to get separate pledges from Washington and Brussels to lift all restrictions on its grain and other agricultural exports.

The United States and European countries praised the agreement, urging Moscow to abide by its rules.

A US official said the deal was “well structured” enough to oversee Russian compliance.

The EU called for “rapid implementation” of the deal, while British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said London would “ensure Russia’s actions to match its words”.

safe hope

Diplomats expect the grain to flow completely by mid-August.

The four sides should first establish a joint command and control center in Istanbul that monitors the passage of ships and resolves disputes.

They have not yet decided how the ships will be checked for weapons before returning empty to Ukrainian ports.

Ukrainian farmers who see their silos filling up with grain they can’t sell completed the Istanbul deal with the hope that they preserved.

“It gives some hope but you can’t believe what the Russians say,” said farmer Mykola Zverukha.

Their warehouses were already filled with 13,000 tonnes of grain and were in danger of overflow as this year’s crop began to arrive.

“Russia is incredible, they have shown themselves year after year,” he told AFP in the southern Mykolaiv region.

Global alarm about that grain is at odds with European fears that Russia is starting to use its hold on energy exports as a geopolitical weapon in its standoff with the West.

The grain deal was signed a day after Russia restarted the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, easing concerns about a permanent shutdown in Europe following a 10-day maintenance suspension.

Analysts say a partial restoration of gas supplies this winter was insufficient to address the energy shortage in Europe.

more US military aid

After the ornate hall of Istanbul’s Dolmabahs Palace was felt away from the Donbass war zone in eastern Ukraine, another day of continuous shelling at the front.

After gaining full control of neighboring Lugansk, Russia is trying to fight deeper into the Donetsk region of the war zone.

On Friday, the United States signed another $270 million in military aid to Ukraine, including rocket systems, artillery ammunition and armored command posts.

Ukraine’s president said five people were killed and 10 wounded in Russian attacks around the Donetsk region the previous day.

In the Donetsk village of Chasiv Yar – on July 10 in a strike that killed more than 45 people – 64-year-old Lyudmila was collecting apricots near the rubble.

“There’s nothing now. The officers are gone. We have to save ourselves to survive,” she said, giving only her first name.

The military toll on both sides has remained speculative since Russia’s invasion on 24 February.

US and British spy chiefs believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is suffering more damage than expected.

Ukraine’s war effort has been helped in recent weeks notably by US deliveries of high-precision weapons that allow Kyiv to destroy Russian weapons silos over long distances.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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