Three grain ships leave Ukraine; NATO chief says Russia must not win

  • Three grain ships leave Ukraine ports
  • First ship to arrive in Ukraine since the start of the war
  • Eastern battles “hell”, says Zelenskiy
  • Amnesty says Ukrainian troops endanger civilians
  • NATO chief warns Putin not to move forward

ISTANBUL/KIEV, Aug. 5 (Reuters) – Three ships loaded with grain left Ukrainian ports on Friday under a recently signed safe passage agreement, Turkey’s defense ministry and Reuters witnesses said.

The first grain ship to depart from a Ukrainian port since the start of the Russian invasion departed Odessa on Monday.

“We expect the security guarantees of our partners from the UN and Turkey to continue to work, and food exports from our ports to become stable and predictable for all market participants,” Ukrainian infrastructure Mnister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook after the ships departed. .

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In a rare diplomatic breakthrough in the five-month war, the United Nations and Turkey reached an agreement on safe passage between Moscow and Kiev after the United Nations warned of famines caused by the cessation of Ukrainian grain shipments.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, sparking Europe’s worst conflict since World War II and triggering a global energy and food crisis. Ukraine and Russia produce about a third of the world’s wheat and Russia is Europe’s main energy supplier.

On Friday, two grain ships departed from Chornomorsk and one from Odessa, carrying a total of about 58,000 tons of maize.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said on Twitter that Panama-flagged Navistar, carrying 33,000 tons of maize bound for Ireland, was leaving Odessa.

The Maltese-flagged Rojen, with 13,000 tons of maize on board, departed from Chornomorsk harbor en route to Great Britain. The Turkish-flagged vessel Polarnet, carrying 12,000 tons of maize, departed from Chornomorsk for the Turkish Black Sea port of Karasu.

The Turkish bulk carrier Osprey S, which flies the flag of Liberia, was expected to arrive at the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk on Friday, the Odessa regional government said. It would be the first ship to arrive in a Ukrainian port during the war.

Ukraine has called for the grain deal to be expanded to include other products, such as metals, the Financial Times reported.

“This agreement is about logistics, about the movement of ships through the Black Sea,” Ukraine’s Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka told the newspaper.

“What’s the difference between grain and iron ore?”

EASTERN ‘HELL’

After five months of fighting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy this week described the pressure his forces faced in the eastern Donbas region as “hell”.

Moscow is trying to control the largely Russian-speaking Donbas, comprising the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, where pro-Moscow separatists took control of the territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014.

Zelenskiy spoke of fierce fighting around the town of Avdiivka and the fortified village of Pisky, where Ukraine has recognized the “partial success” of its Russian enemy in recent days.

The Ukrainian army said on Thursday that Russian troops carried out at least two attacks on Pisky but were repulsed.

Ukraine has been strengthening defensive positions in Pisky for the past eight years, viewing it as a buffer zone against Russian-backed forces controlling the city of Donetsk about 10km to the southeast.

Ukrainian general Oleksiy Hromov told a news conference that his forces had recaptured two villages around the eastern city of Sloviansk, but had been driven back to the city of Avdiivka after being forced to leave a coal mine considered an important defensive position.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed its offensive.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the claims of either side.

The war in Ukraine has displaced millions, killed thousands of civilians and left towns and villages in ruins. Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of attacking civilians and committing war crimes, the charges Russia rejects.

On Friday, Ukraine’s general staff said Russian shelling on dozens of cities across the country had re-targeted civilian settlements and military infrastructure.

NATO WARNING

Human rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday that Ukraine is endangering civilians by basing troops in residential areas. read more

Zelenskiy hit back, saying the group was trying to “shift responsibility from the aggressor to the victim.” read more

The White House said it expected Russian officials to try to frame Ukrainian troops for an attack on the frontline city of Olenivka last week that killed detainees held by Moscow-backed separatists. read more

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador responded in a Twitter post, saying the attack used US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he would launch a fact-finding mission after both sides called for an investigation. read more

Putin says he launched his “special military operation” in Ukraine to ensure Russian security and protect Russian-speakers in Ukraine.

Ukraine and the West describe Russia’s actions as an imperial-style unprovoked war of aggression.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that the war is the most dangerous moment for Europe since World War II and that Russia must not win. read more

Amid fears among some politicians in the West that Russia’s ambitions extend beyond Ukraine, Stoltenberg warned Putin that the response to such a move would be overwhelming.

“If President Putin even thinks of doing something similar to a NATO country as he has done to Georgia, Moldova or Ukraine, the whole of NATO will be immediately involved,” Stoltenberg said.

The war has led previously non-aligned Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership, with the request so far ratified by 23 of the 30 member states, including the United States.

(This story is being resubmitted to update the headline to show ships have departed)

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Reporting by Reuters agencies; Written by Michael Perry; Editing by Stephen Coates, Robert Birsel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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