Three more ships loaded with Ukrainian grain left the country’s Black Sea ports on Friday, the latest shipments under a deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations to ease a growing food crisis.
Ships carrying more than 58,000 tons of maize are heading for Ireland, the United Kingdom and Turkey, the United Nations said in a statement. The vessels are among more than a dozen ships stranded in Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February and are carrying a fraction of the 20 million tonnes of grain remaining in the country.
A fourth vessel has been inspected by Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and United Nations officials in Istanbul and is heading for Ukraine, officials added.
The export deal kicked off this week when the first vessel was cleared to sail to Lebanon. Experts say much of Ukraine’s grain exports are used for animal feed, not human consumption, and the shipment may not have a significant impact on the world price of corn, wheat and soy.
“The movement of three additional vessels overnight is a very positive sign and will continue to build confidence that we are headed in the right direction,” said Jonathan Haines, principal analyst at data and analytics firm Gro Intelligence. “If the grain flow from Ukraine continues to increase, it will help ease global supply constraints.”
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►The Ukrainian presidential office said on Friday that at least eight people were killed and 16 others injured in the latest Russian bombardment in the eastern region of Donetsk, which for weeks has faced the most intensive Russian barrage. “The shelling and shelling continues around the clock, and people who refuse to evacuate risk being killed on their pillows,” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks.
►Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for four hours on Friday for talks covering a grain deal brokered by Turkey and the UN and growing economic ties between Moscow and Ankara, among other things . They underlined “the need for full realization of the comprehensive agreement reached in Istanbul … including the unhindered export of Russian grain and fertilizers” in a joint statement.
►Russian forces shelled Nikopol, a Ukrainian town near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, on Thursday, bolstering warnings from the UN nuclear chief that fighting around the site could lead to a disastrous accident. The factory has been under Russian control since Moscow troops seized it at the start of the war.
Biden says he has ‘hope’ for Brittney Griner prisoner swap with Russia
President Joe Biden said Friday he remains hopeful for a prisoner swap a day after WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian judge for drug possession.
” I have good hope. We are working hard,” Biden said when asked to comment on Griner.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist from the United States, was arrested February 17 at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow after Russian authorities said she was carrying vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
Over the past few weeks, Biden has come under pressure to try to bring Griner back to the United States. She sent Biden a handwritten letter, which was delivered July 4. The president then responded with his own letter.
Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to agree to a deal to free Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for espionage. The Kremlin said on Friday it would be open to talking about a prisoner swap through a dedicated Russian-American channel and not in public.
– Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY
A VISUAL EXPLANATION:Mapping and tracking the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Amnesty International Says Ukraine Endangers Civilians
Ukrainian forces violated international law by establishing bases and operating weapon systems in populated residential areas, turning civilian areas into military targets, Amnesty International said in a report Thursday.
The human rights organization’s researchers found evidence Ukrainian forces based themselves in buildings like schools and hospitals in 19 towns and villages, exposing populated areas to Russian strikes that killed civilians and destroyed infrastructure.
However, in cities like Kharkiv, Amnesty International found that Russia illegally targeted civilian areas and committed war crimes. Ukraine’s use of civilian areas as military bases “in no way justifies” Russia’s use of indiscriminate weapons like internationally banned cluster munitions, the organization said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that the report attempted to “shift the blame” for civilian deaths in Ukraine away from Russia in his late night speech reported by CNN.
Russian and pro-Kremlin media have widely quoted the report, which to some extent aligns with the official Moscow narrative.
“We talk about it all the time, calling the actions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces a tactic of using the civilian population as a ‘human shield,'” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Telegram.
Contributor: The Associated Press