Four-way Talks Aim to Aid Ukrainian Grain Exports

Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations are due to meet Wednesday in Istanbul in an effort to resume grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has hindered Ukrainian exports, helping push up global prices on grain, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer. 

Turkey and the United Nations have been working to broker a deal to alleviate the crisis. 

Russia has expressed concerns about ships being used to bring weapons into Ukraine and called for ships to be searched. 

Ukraine has said an agreement cannot threaten the security of its territory along the Black Sea. 

Donbas fighting 

Britain’s defense ministry said Wednesday it expects Russian forces to focus on taking small towns near the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk as it tries to take control of the eastern Donbas region. 

“The urban areas of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk likely remain the principal objectives for this phase of the operation,” the ministry said. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address late Tuesday that “Russian shelling does not stop for a single day.” 

“In the Donbas, offensive attempts do not stop, the situation there does not get easier, and the losses do not get smaller. We must remember this. We must see this, draw attention to this.” 

Ukraine said Tuesday 52 Russians were killed in a long-range missile attack on an ammunition dump in southern Ukraine. Moscow disputed the claim, saying seven civilians had been killed. 

Kyiv said the attack in the town of Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region came after the United States supplied Ukraine with advanced HIMARS mobile artillery systems, which Ukraine said its forces were using with greater accuracy. 

“Based on the results of our rocket and artillery units, the enemy lost 5️2 (people), a Msta-B howitzer, a mortar and seven armored and other vehicles, as well as an ammunition depot in Nova Kakhovka,” Ukraine’s southern military command said in a statement. 

The region Ukraine hit is one that Russia seized after launching its invasion on February 24. With access to the Black Sea, the area is of strategic importance. 

A Russian-installed official in Kherson gave a different version of events, saying at least seven people had been killed and that civilians and civilian infrastructure had been hit. 

Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Vladimir Leontyev, head of the Russia-installed, Kakhovka district military-civilian administration, as saying at least seven people had been killed in the attack and about 60 wounded. 

“There are still many people under the rubble. The injured are being taken to the hospital, but many people are blocked in their apartments and houses,” Leontyev said in the TASS account. He was also quoted as saying that warehouses, shops, a pharmacy, gas stations and a church had been hit. 

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of indiscriminately killing civilians in the war. The United Nations human rights office said Tuesday that 5,024 civilians had been killed in Ukraine since the invasion began, while adding that the actual toll was likely much higher. 

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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