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The bodies of 210 Ukrainian soldiers who died in Mariupol have been repatriated, according to the Ministry of Defense

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday it had opened a land corridor to Russian-occupied Crimea, allowing civilians and goods to pass through eastern Ukrainian territory now under its control.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a conference call on Tuesday that the military, together with Russian Railways, had restored 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) of railway tracks and opened roads for allow “full-fledged traffic” between Russia and the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. and Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russian forces from Ukraine in 2014. Water supply through the North Crimean Canal – a lifeline for Crimea – has also resumed, Shoigu said.

According to an official reading of the appeal, Shoigu said the land corridor allows Russia to start delivering goods to Mariupol, Berdyansk and Kherson, port cities in southeastern Ukraine that have been seized by the Russia since it launched its invasion at the end of February.

He said the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk were operating normally and ready to ship grain, amid international condemnation of Russia’s blockade of major ports that left millions of tonnes of grain languishing in Ukraine.

In accordance with the instructions of the Supreme Commander (Russian President Vladimir Putin), we are ready to load grain at the ports,” Shoigu said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Ukraine must demine coastal waters for grain ships to pass and assured that Russia would facilitate their passage and not use demined sea lanes. to attack Ukraine.

“President Putin…said that Ukraine should clear the approaches to ports, which will allow ships, after being checked by our military to ensure that they are not importing weapons, to enter the port, to load grain and then, if necessary, even with our help, head to international waters,” Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call.

A bit of context: The minister’s comments come as world leaders condemned a months-long blockade by Russian forces of key ports in Ukraine – including Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov and Odessa on the Black Sea – which has left more than 20 million tons of grain blocked inside the country. In a speech to the UN Security Council on Monday, European Council President Charles Michel accused the Kremlin of “using the food supply as a stealth missile against developing countries” by taking millions hostage tons of Ukrainian grain and blockading Ukrainian ports.

CNN’s Sana Noor Haq, Eliza Mackintosh, Maegan Vazquez and Sam Fossum contributed to this post.


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