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Ukraine and Russia sign UN-backed deal to restart grain exports

Ukraine and Russia have signed a UN-backed deal to allow the export of millions of tonnes of grain from blockaded Black Sea ports, potentially averting the threat of a catastrophic global food crisis.

A signing ceremony at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul was attended by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, who had played a key role during months of tense negotiations.

Guterres said in remarks after the deal would open up grain exports from Ukraine and the UN would work to ensure its success.

It is hoped the agreement will secure the passage of grain and essential goods such as sunflower oil from three Ukrainian ports including Odesa, even as the war continues to rage elsewhere in the country. The UN had warned that the war risked mass malnutrition, hunger and famine.

The deal is also aimed at ensuring the safe passage of Russian-made fertiliser products, essential for ensuring future high yields on crops, amid efforts to ease a global food crisis provoked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

UN officials said they hoped preliminary shipments could begin as soon as Saturday, with the hope of reaching prewar levels of export from the three Ukrainian ports – a rate of 5m metric tonnes of grain a month – within weeks.

According to UN officials, under the agreement struck between Kyiv and Moscow:

  • A coalition of Turkish, Ukrainian and UN staff will monitor the loading of grain on to vessels in Ukrainian ports before navigating a pre-planned route through the Black Sea, which remains heavily mined by Ukrainian and Russian forces.
  • Ukrainian pilot vessels will guide commercial vessels transporting the grain in order to navigate the mined areas around the coastline using a map of safe channels provided by the Ukrainian side.
  • The vessels will then cross the Black Sea towards Turkey’s Bosphorus strait while being closely monitored by a joint coordination centre in Istanbul, containing representatives from the UN, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey.
  • Ships entering Ukraine will be inspected under the supervision of the same joint coordination centre to ensure they are not carrying weapons or items that could be used to attack the Ukrainian side.
  • The Russian and Ukrainian sides have agreed to withhold attacks on any of the commercial vessels or ports engaged in the initiative to transport vital grain, while UN and Turkish monitors will be present in Ukrainian ports in order to demarcate areas protected by the accord.

Read more of Daniel Boffey and Ruth Michaelson’s report here: Ukraine and Russia sign UN-backed deal to restart grain exports

Key events

UK ‘will be watching Russia’ after grain export deal

The British foreign secretary and contender for the job of prime minister, Liz Truss, has praised the Black Sea grain export agreement between Ukraine and Russia as “a positive step for global food security”.

The UK, she added, “will be watching to ensure Russia’s actions match its words”, echoing remarks from US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield earlier today.

Grain shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports can resume thanks to a @UN-brokered agreement.

This is a positive step for global food security and will help some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

The Foreign Secretary’s statement ⤵️

— Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (@FCDOGovUK) July 22, 2022

Russia’s central bank will extend restrictions on cash withdrawals of foreign currency for Russians who collectively have around $85bn parked in their bank accounts, governor Elvira Nabiullina said on Friday.

Russia limited foreign currency cash withdrawals to $10,000 in March in response to the US and European Union banning the export of banknotes to Russia at a time when Russians tried to get hold of hard currency.

Nabiullina told a news conference the bank “will be forced to extend those restrictions” before they expire in early September, Reuters reports.

“The ban on the import of foreign banknotes into Russia remains in force,” she said, speaking after the Central Bank announced a larger interest rate cut than had been expected, bringing borrowing costs down from 9.5% to 8%.

An employee holds sheets of the newly designed Russian 100-rouble banknotes at the Goznak printing factory in Moscow, Russia on 6 July, 2022. Photograph: Moscow News Agency/Reuters

Russia has launched a crackdown on the agency that processes the immigration of Russian Jews to Israel in response to new Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid’s tougher stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, analysts said on Friday.

On Thursday, a Moscow court said the justice ministry had requested the “dissolution” of the Jewish Agency over unspecified legal violations, and set a hearing for 28 July.

Lapid vowed to act through “diplomatic channels” to ensure the semi-governmental agency’s continued operation.

An Israeli delegation is to visit Moscow next week to discuss the matter and underline the close links between the Russian Jewish community and Israel, Agence France-Presse reports.

Israel’s diaspora affairs minister Nachman Shai accused the Kreml of punitive action over Israel’s stance on the war in Ukraine, tweeting:

Russian Jews will not be held hostage by the war in Ukraine.

The attempt to punish the Jewish Agency for Israel’s stance on the war is deplorable and offensive. The Jews of Russia cannot be detached from their historical and emotional connection to the State of Israel.

Ties between Russia and Israel have deteriorated since the Israeli government condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Israel underlined its good relations with both countries but Lapid, who became prime minister on 1 July, said Russia had committed “a grave violation of the international order”.

Last week, during a visit by US president Joe Biden, Lapid condemned “Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” adding that “in order to protect freedom, sometimes force must be used.”

In this file photo taken on 5 May, 2008, a Russian immigrant to Israel is embraced by well-wishers holding flowers and Israeli flags as she arrives at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.
In this file photo taken on 5 May, 2008, a Russian immigrant to Israel is embraced by well-wishers holding flowers and Israeli flags as she arrives at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport. Photograph: David Furst/AFP/Getty Images

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday that the Kreml would not “take advantage” of the de-mining and opening of Ukrainian ports as part of the UN-brokered deal to resume Ukrainian grain exports, Reuters reports.

Shoigu said on the Rossiya-24 state TV channel after the signing ceremony in Istanbul:

Russia has taken on the obligations that are clearly spelled out in this document. We will not take advantage of the fact that the ports will be cleared and opened. We have made this commitment.

Ruth Michaelson

Ruth Michaelson

Here some more details from my colleague Ruth Michaelson on the signing ceremony for the grain export agreement attended by Russian and Ukrainian delegations in the presence of Turkey’s president and the UN chief in Istanbul.

She reports:

At a grand stone-walled Ottoman palace in Istanbul, UN chief Antonio Guterres and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan positioned themselves at the centre of a broad table laden with flowers to celebrate the signing of the agreement.

Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu sat opposite Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar before Ukrainian trade minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed an identical document agreeing to the safe transport of grain from Ukrainian ports.

“We are proud to be instrumental in an initiative playing a major role in solving the global food crisis,” Erdoğan told the room full of UN officials, leading Turkish cabinet members, Ukrainian diplomats and members of the Russian and Turkish militaries.

Turkey hailed the signing of the grain agreement as a tentative step towards a broader peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine, as well as a diplomatic victory for president Erdoğan who used a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Tehran to raise the issue of the grain corridors earlier this week.

“This joint step we are taking today in Istanbul with Russia and Ukraine will be a new turning point to revive hopes for peace, this is my sincere hope. The war will finally end at the negotiating table,” he said.

“Our diplomatic efforts under the leadership of our president are yielding results,” said foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu ahead of the signing, adding that “we will continue our efforts to resolve the conflict.”

NATO member and Russian ally Turkey has hosted multiple rounds of talks between the Ukrainian and Russian sides, positioning itself as a key arbiter for negotiations since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Çavuşoğlu, who embraced Guterres on arrival at the signing ceremony, called the grain export agreement “the first step towards the solution of the food crisis affecting the whole world.”

Senior UN officials estimate that 71 million people worldwide moved into poverty in the first three months of this year, partially attributable to the war.

Approximately 20 million tonnes of grain has been stuck for months in silos close to the blockaded port of Odessa, while the UN shuttled between Russian and Ukrainian officials in an effort to find a way to evacuate the grain that risked expiring as July’s harvest season set in.

Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov tweeted that the signing was “a great contribution to global food security,” alongside a picture with a smiling UN chief Guterres.

The signing was a boon to Turkey’s efforts at international diplomacy, and regarded as an important success for Erdoğan at home ahead of an election expected in the coming year.

“God willing the signing ceremony will take place and we will give the good news to the world,” an ebullient Erdoğan told a teeming rally of his supporters prior to attending the signing of the agreement.

Grain export deal ‘life-saving’, Red Cross chief says

Robert Mardini, director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has welcomed the grain export deal Russia and Ukraine have agreed in Turkey and stressed its importance.

He said:

A deal that allows grain to leave Black Sea ports is nothing short of life-saving for people across the world who are struggling to feed their families.

Nowhere are the consequences felt harder than in communities already impacted by armed conflict and climate shocks.

For example, our market monitoring, over the past six months has seen the price of food staples rise by 187% in Sudan; 86% in Syria; 60% in Yemen; 54% in Ethiopia; as compared to the same time period last year.

So efforts must continue.

The US will work to hold Russia accountable for implementing the UN-led deal to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, said US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

The US also wants China to stop stockpiling grain and offer more to meet global humanitarian aid needs, James O’Brien, head of the US State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, told reporters, Reuters reports.

Prof Chris Elliott, the founder of the Institute for Global Food Security, has been speaking about the grain export deal that has been signed this afternoon.

He told viewers of Sky News in the UK that “there has been very little good news coming out of Ukraine since since the invasion began, and this is a very, very positive move.”

He said the accord could have a significant impact on the risk of hunger across the world. He said:

To put it into perspective, Ukraine is the fifth largest exporter of cereals in the world, and nearly half of that is bought by the United Nations, by the world food programme to go into feeding many, many millions of people, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, who are already running very, very short of food at the moment.

He added that it would take time for the scheme to get up and running, explaining:

The scale of the operation is enormous. 20m tonnes of cereal that is produced in Ukraine – they have to export 5m tonnes of it. Getting all of the ships in place that can carry that material. So probably two weeks is a reasonable amount of time for the movement to start. But really, to get it into full operation, into full tilt, will probably take at least a month from now. And it could be a couple of months, really, before those food chains that have been deprived of the cereals are replenished.

Here are some more of the pictures of the signing ceremony in Istanbul, including the presence of oligarch Roman Abramovich.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) waits prior to a signing ceremony of the grain shipment agreement.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) waits prior to a signing ceremony of the grain shipment agreement. Photograph: Sedat Suna/EPA
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the signing ceremony in Istanbul.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the signing ceremony in Istanbul. Photograph: Sedat Suna/EPA
Roman Abramovich, who has spent years insisting that he had no close links to the Putin regime, attends the grain deal signing ceremony in Istanbul.
Roman Abramovich, who has spent years insisting that he had no close links to the Putin regime, attends the grain deal signing ceremony in Istanbul. Photograph: Ümit Bektaş/Reuters

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of Turkey, has said the grain export deal will prevent billions of people facing famine at the signing ceremony in Istanbul for a grain export deal between Russia and Ukraine.

In remarks ahead of the signing, Erdoğan said that the deal would ease global inflation, and that implementation of the deal would be overseen by a joint coordination centre in Istanbul.

Erdoğan called on Russia and Ukraine to end the war, saying that it doesn’t only affect those involved, but the whole world. He said that the war would have to end at the negotiating table.

He praised the positive atmosphere that Turkey had been able to bring to these negotiations, and that he hoped this grain deal would be a turning point.

‘Agreement did not come easy’ – UN secretary general Guterres

In his comments opening the signing ceremony for the grain export deal between Russia and Ukraine, UN secretary general António Guterres said that the agreement “did not come easy”.

He said “Since the war started, I’ve been highlighting that there is no solution to the global food crisis without ensuring full global access to grains, food products, and food and fertilisers. Today we took important steps to achieve these objectives. But it has been a long road.

“In April, after being received by President Erdoğan, I met with President Putin and President Zelenskiy to propose a plan for solutions, and we have been working every day since.

“It took immense efforts and commitment by all sides, and weeks of around the clock negotiations. The commitment and dedication are even more vital today. This initiative must be fully implemented, because the world so desperately needs it to tackle the global food crisis.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during the signing ceremony in Istanbul.
António Guterres speaks during the signing ceremony in Istanbul. Photograph: Ümit Bektaş/Reuters

He went on to say: “I urge all sides to spare no efforts to implement their commitments. We must also spare no effort for peace.

“This is an unprecedented agreement between two parties engaged in bloody conflict. But that conflict continues and people are dying every day. And fighting is raging every day.

“The beacon of hope on the Black Sea is shining bright today, thanks to the collective efforts of so many.

“In these trying and turbulent times for the region and our globe. Let that beacon guide us towards easing human suffering and securing peace.”

Ukraine and Russia sign UN-backed deal to restart grain exports

Ukraine and Russia have signed a UN-backed deal to allow the export of millions of tonnes of grain from blockaded Black Sea ports, potentially averting the threat of a catastrophic global food crisis.

A signing ceremony at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul was attended by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, who had played a key role during months of tense negotiations.

Guterres said in remarks after the deal would open up grain exports from Ukraine and the UN would work to ensure its success.

It is hoped the agreement will secure the passage of grain and essential goods such as sunflower oil from three Ukrainian ports including Odesa, even as the war continues to rage elsewhere in the country. The UN had warned that the war risked mass malnutrition, hunger and famine.

The deal is also aimed at ensuring the safe passage of Russian-made fertiliser products, essential for ensuring future high yields on crops, amid efforts to ease a global food crisis provoked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

UN officials said they hoped preliminary shipments could begin as soon as Saturday, with the hope of reaching prewar levels of export from the three Ukrainian ports – a rate of 5m metric tonnes of grain a month – within weeks.

According to UN officials, under the agreement struck between Kyiv and Moscow:

  • A coalition of Turkish, Ukrainian and UN staff will monitor the loading of grain on to vessels in Ukrainian ports before navigating a pre-planned route through the Black Sea, which remains heavily mined by Ukrainian and Russian forces.
  • Ukrainian pilot vessels will guide commercial vessels transporting the grain in order to navigate the mined areas around the coastline using a map of safe channels provided by the Ukrainian side.
  • The vessels will then cross the Black Sea towards Turkey’s Bosphorus strait while being closely monitored by a joint coordination centre in Istanbul, containing representatives from the UN, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey.
  • Ships entering Ukraine will be inspected under the supervision of the same joint coordination centre to ensure they are not carrying weapons or items that could be used to attack the Ukrainian side.
  • The Russian and Ukrainian sides have agreed to withhold attacks on any of the commercial vessels or ports engaged in the initiative to transport vital grain, while UN and Turkish monitors will be present in Ukrainian ports in order to demarcate areas protected by the accord.

Read more of Daniel Boffey and Ruth Michaelson’s report here: Ukraine and Russia sign UN-backed deal to restart grain exports

‘This is an agreement for the world’ – UN secretary general Guterres

Here is what the UN secretary general António Guterres has had to say in opening the ceremony to sign the grain deal. He thanked Turkey and praised the Russian and Ukrainian sides for coming together. He said:

Today there is a beacon on the Black Sea. The beacon of hope. The beacon of possibility. The beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever.

Thank you very much to the representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine. You have overcome obstacles, and put aside differences, to pave the way for an initiative that will serve the common interests of all.

Promoting the welfare of humanity has been the driving force of these talks. The question has not been what is good for one side or the other. The focus has been on what matters most for the people of our world.

And let there be no doubt – this is an agreement for the world. It will bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy, and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine, and to help stabilise global food prices.

The signing ceremony for a grain export deal between Russia and Ukraine is starting in Istanbul.

The Sky News correspondent Alex Rossi, being interviewed from Dnipro in Ukraine, has described the deal that we are expecting to see signed this afternoon as “an extraordinary piece of diplomacy” by Turkey, but he offered a slightly pessimistic view of the possible success. He told viewers:

Remember that Ukraine and Russia are currently locked in a fratricidal conflict with each other. They’re still trading blows. This is an extremely hot war that’s being fought here in Ukraine.

This deal is desperately needed to be done. But I suppose a caveat, a word of warning to this, even if it is signed, that’s one thing. But putting it into practice is something else. Because of course, there’s a great deal of suspicion between the two parties, and it could break down very easily.

It is called the Black Sea initiative. But perhaps a better and easier way to really think about it as a very focused ceasefire at sea, because that is effectively what it is.

Russia at the moment has a naval blockade on the Black Sea. Ukraine has mined the area around its ports to stop Russia from launching an amphibious assault.

So from the Ukrainian point of view, they are not going to take out those mines. But what they’re going to do is pilot ships carrying grain through safe passages. And the Russians are going to agree not to fire on those vessels.

He suggested that the UN hoped it could see grain moving within 10 days.

Empty ships returning to the ports will be inspected, as, he explained, it is a Russian fear that the vessels could be used to secretly import “very sophisticated weaponry” that could be used against it.

Here are some of the latest images to be sent to us from Ukraine over the newswires.

Soldiers of the Azov regiment pay a last tribute to a serviceman killed in a battle in a city crematorium in Kyiv. The battalion retains some far-right affiliations and has been criticised for its use of insignia which echoes neo-Nazi imagery.
Soldiers of the Azov regiment pay a last tribute to a serviceman killed in a battle in a city crematorium in Kyiv. The battalion retains some far-right affiliations and has been criticised for its use of insignia which echoes neo-Nazi imagery. Photograph: Andrew Kravchenko/AP
In occupied Kherson people arrive at an office to receive Russian passports.
In occupied Kherson people arrive at an office to receive Russian passports. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The photographs of perished Ukrainian defenders are pictured in a settlement that was liberated from Russian invaders in Bucha district.
The photographs of perished Ukrainian defenders are pictured in a settlement that was liberated from Russian invaders in Bucha district. Photograph: Ukrinform/REX/Shutterstock
Sappers of Ukraine’s state emergency service load on to a truck a part of a missile found in a wheat field in the Mykolaiv Region.
Sappers of Ukraine’s state emergency service load on to a truck a part of a missile found in a wheat field in the Mykolaiv Region. Photograph: State Emergency Service Of Ukraine/Reuters
A local resident stands in his backyard near a destroyed Russian tank in the village of Velyka Dymerka.
A local resident stands in his backyard near a destroyed Russian tank in the village of Velyka Dymerka. Photograph: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

We are expecting the grain export deal brokered by Turkey between Russia and Ukraine to be signed in Istanbul shortly. Currently there is a room set up for the ceremony, but it is yet to start.

Local officials reported two schools in the eastern Donetsk region – one in Kramatorsk and one in the nearby town of Kostiantynivka – were hit in the early hours of Thursday. Here is footage of the scene at the school in Kramatorsk.

Ukraine: Footage shows Kramatorsk school in ruins after Russian strike – video

Russia’s ministry of defence, without presenting any evidence, earlier claimed that it killed “up to 300 nationalists” in a strike on a school in Kramatorsk.





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