- Putin accuses Kyiv and West of flouting grain deal
- Says too much grain goes to EU and not to poor countries
- Said wants to discuss the evolution of the terms of the agreement
- Plans to talk to Turkish President about it soon
KYIV, Sept 7 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he wanted to discuss reopening a UN-brokered deal that allows Ukraine to export its grain via the Black Sea after accusing Kyiv and the West to use it to deceive developing countries and Russia. .
Putin’s criticism that the deal delivered grain, fertilizer and other foodstuffs to the European Union and Turkey at the expense of poor countries is likely to raise fears that the pact could collapse if it cannot be renegotiated successfully.
Ukraine, whose ports have been blocked by Russia since its invasion in February, said the terms of the deal were strictly adhered to and there was no reason to renegotiate it.
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The deal, facilitated by the United Nations and Turkey in July, created a protected export corridor via the Black Sea for Ukrainian grain after Kyiv lost access to its main export route when Russia attacked Ukraine by land, air and sea.
The deal, designed to help lower world food prices by boosting supplies of grains and oilseeds, was the only diplomatic breakthrough between Moscow and Kyiv in more than six months of war.
Moscow said at the time that one of the main reasons it signed the deal was to help developing countries avoid food shortages.
But Putin said on Wednesday that Ukraine and the West were not meeting his terms and that most of the grain was going to the EU, not the poorest countries, something the Russian leader said would have to change if this which he called an “unprecedented humanitarian disaster” had to be averted.
“I met with the leaders of the African Union, the leaders of African countries, and promised them that we would do everything to guarantee their interests and facilitate the export of grain from Ukraine,” Putin told an economic forum in the Russian Far East region.
But if shipments to Turkey as an intermediate country were excluded, he said only two out of 87 shipments fell under the United Nations World Food Programme, accounting for just 60,000 tonnes or 3% of the total of 2 million tons exported so far.
“We respect the agreements. (But) it turns out…they (the West) have just fucked us royally and not only us but the poorest countries whose interests were the pretext to do all this .”
There were around 70 ships stranded in Ukraine when Russia invaded in February, some of which had already been loaded with grain, with contracts already signed. Some of these contract cargoes were the first to move.
Putin has raised the possibility of restricting grain and food exports to the EU and promised to discuss the issue with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who helped broker the initial deal.
A Ukrainian presidential adviser responded by saying that Russia had no reason to review the historic pact and that the terms of the war agreement were being strictly adhered to.
“I believe that such unexpected and baseless statements rather indicate an attempt to find new aggressive talking points to influence world public opinion and, above all, to put pressure on the United Nations,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser. Read more
Ukraine hopes to export 60 million tonnes of grain in eight to nine months, presidential economic adviser Oleh Ustenko said in July, warning that such exports could take up to 24 months if ports do not function properly.
According to the United Nations, 88 ships have left or are due to leave Ukraine under the deal so far, and of those two ships are World Food Program ships – one of which went in Djibouti, the other in Yemen.
Of these 88 ships, most of the grain – 368,407 tonnes – went or is due to go to Turkey. Around 757,697 tons in total are listed as being destined for members of the European Union, although some shipments are also destined for other countries, including China, India, Iran, Egypt and Sudan .
Putin complained that another part of the deal to ease restrictions for Russian food exporters and shippers was also not being implemented.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also cast doubt on the deal a day earlier, accusing Western states of failing to honor each other’s commitments to help facilitate shipments from Moscow. Read more
UKRAINIAN BATTLEFIELD SUCCESS?
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials remained cautious about how a battlefield counteroffensive would unfold.
Lugansk region governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian television, without giving a location, that a “counterattack is underway and … our forces are having some success. Let’s leave it at that.”
But an official from the self-proclaimed pro-Moscow People’s Republic of Donetsk provided more details on Tuesday and said there was fighting in Balakliia, an eastern town of 27,000 between Kharkiv and Izyum, a town held by the Russia with a major rail hub. used by Moscow to supply its forces.
“Today the Ukrainian Armed Forces, after prolonged artillery preparation…launched an attack on Balakliia…” Daniil Bezsonov said on Telegram, adding that if the city was lost, Russian forces would Izyum would become vulnerable on their northwest flank.
“At the moment Balakliia is surrounded and within firing range of Ukrainian artillery. All approaches are cut off by fire,” he said.
Russia claims to have repelled an assault in the south and reported no territorial losses.
Reuters was unable to independently verify these battlefield accounts.
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Reuters reporting; Written by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Philippa Fletcher
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