“‘We have to save the grain — in between shelling, our boys are running around to put out the flames,’ said Vadim Chornii, the brigade’s deputy commander, whose forces have been fighting in the area since the war began in late February. He fears the Russians have shifted tactics, deliberately targeting farms to demoralize the region’s remaining population and create an artificial famine to force Ukraine’s capitulation.”
Financial Times writers Max Seddon and Laura Pitel reported yesterday that, “Russian president Vladimir Putin arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for a summit with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts that will have crucial implications for his military campaign in Ukraine.
“Putin’s trip, his second foreign visit since he launched a full invasion of Ukraine in late February, is ostensibly for three-party talks with Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the Syrian conflict.
“But the meeting could produce a breakthrough in talks to end Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which Erdoğan and the UN are mediating to secure the passage of millions of tonnes of grain.”
The FT article indicated that, “Ukraine, the EU and Turkey have said the grain talks are close to securing a deal possibly as soon as this week. Before the invasion, Ukraine was the world’s fifth-largest wheat exporter and a big supplier for countries including Syria, Libya and Lebanon.
“But any deal will require Putin’s personal sign-off, according to western officials, as Russia is demanding the west roll back sanctions it says are limiting its own grain exports.
“‘Beyond any doubt, it is 100 per cent sure that this issue will be discussed directly by the presidents,’ Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, told reporters on Monday, according to news agency Interfax.”
In a separate FT article yesterday, Laura Pitel, Max Seddon and Henry Foy reported that,
Ukraine and Russia are close to agreeing a deal to secure the safe passage of millions of tonnes of grain through the Black Sea but remain at odds over how to ensure the security of the ports and ships along the crucial export route, according to people familiar with the UN-led negotiations.
“The four-party agreement, which is also being mediated by Turkey, would end a months-long Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports that has cut off the export route for one of the world’s leading grain producers and threatened a global food crisis.
“Russia and Ukraine have agreed to monitor ships en route to and from ports including Odesa at two control centres — one in Istanbul and a second on the Black Sea — where the ships will be inspected.”
Pitel, Seddon and Foy explained that, “Russia has also given some assurances it will not launch strikes on cargo ships that would collect the 22mn tonnes of wheat, corn and other products that have been trapped on Ukraine’s coast since President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of the country five months ago, according to officials and diplomats briefed on the talks.
“But Ukraine is not fully convinced by the offer of safe passage and is also demanding a commitment ensuring Russia will not attack its ports.”
The FT article pointed out that, “Ukrainian officials have suggested the outlines of a deal could be agreed in the next few days, according to EU sources who spoke to the Financial Times. But the lack of agreement on key issues means it could be as long as three weeks before shipments resume, according to people briefed on the talks.”
And Wall Street Journal writers Jared Malsin, Aresu Eqbali and Evan Gershkovich reported yesterday that, “Mr. Putin thanked Mr. Erdogan for his efforts to mediate in the grain issue at the start of his meeting with the Turkish president.
“‘With your mediation, we have moved forward. Not all issues, however, have been resolved. But the fact that we have moved forward is already good,’ Mr. Putin said, according to brief remarks shown on Russian television.
“Mr. Erdogan said Russia had shown a positive approach during the last round of grain negotiations. ‘A result from them regarding the grain export will affect the whole world positively,’ he said.”
The Journal writers added that, “Officials will likely hold another meeting on the proposed grain corridor later this week, Turkish and Ukrainian leaders said this week. Turkey’s defense minister said Monday that at the next meeting the parties would reach a final decision on the plan.”
Meanwhile, Reuters writers Tom Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk reported yesterday that, “Ukrainian farmer Mykola Tereshchenko hopes to start harvesting his wheat fields this week, but the smallholder in northern Ukraine has nowhere to store the grain.
“His silos are still crammed full with 1,100 tonnes of grain from last year’s harvest that he can’t export due to the closure of Ukraine’s sea ports following Russia’s invasion in February.
“While some crops have left by rail or road via neighbours such as Romania and Poland, millions of tonnes have piled up on farms and a lack of shipments from one of the world’s biggest grain exporters is pushing up global food prices.”
The Reuters article noted that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated this month that Ukraine ended the 2021/22 season in June with 6.8 million tonnes of corn, an eight-fold rise from the a year earlier, while wheat stocks almost quadrupled to 5.8 million.”
Elsewhere, Dalton Bennett reported in today’s Washington Post that, “The havoc unleashed by the Russian invasion has prevented much of Ukraine’s grain from reaching global markets this year, slashing the output of one of the world’s largest producers and affecting food security worldwide.”
Bennett noted that, “In Pervomaiske, only five miles from Russian military positions, waist-high grain waits in the fields. Ukrainian forces continue holding the town, which has been reduced mostly to rubble, amid the enemy’s ongoing attacks with S-300 surface-to-air missiles and artillery.
“That Russian shelling has grown increasingly chaotic and random as Ukrainian forces reinforce their positions and prepare for what is expected to be a counteroffensive. Farmers and Ukrainian soldiers in the area report new fires daily, which continue to destroy fields and farming equipment.”
Today’s Post article indicated that, “Two Ukrainian fighters based in Pervomaiske talked Saturday about the extra danger that the increased use of cluster bombs and explosives poses in sun-parched farm fields. The men were part of the Ukrainian army’s 63rd Mechanized Brigade, the only presence left to extinguish the fires that result. The people who once lived in the villages fled long ago.