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UN: Ukraine Grain Exports Should Begin Again Within Days

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A worker loads a truck with grain at a terminal during barley harvesting in Odesa region, Ukraine, June 23, 2022, as Russia's attack on its neighbor continues.

The United Nations said Monday that grain exports from Ukraine should begin again within days even as it condemned Russian shelling in the key Black Sea port city of Odesa within hours of agreeing to the resumption of the food shipments.

The grain exports will be made from Odesa and two other Black Sea ports, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said, "and we want to make sure that all conditions are right for the safe travel of ships."

"Anything that's not commensurate with that is, of course, not helpful for the success of this initiative," Haq said as he reiterated Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' condemnation of Russia for launching the Saturday missile attack on Odesa.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov contended, "There's nothing in the [grain export] commitments that Russia signed up to in Istanbul that would prohibit us from continuing our special military operation, destroying military infrastructure and other military targets."

Russia said Monday its missile strikes on military installations on Odesa should not affect the agreement to resume grain exports.

Firefighters work at a site of a Russian missile strike in a sea port of Odesa, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine, July 23, 2022. (Press service of the Joint Forces of the South Defense/Handout via Reuters)
Firefighters work at a site of a Russian missile strike in a sea port of Odesa, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine, July 23, 2022. (Press service of the Joint Forces of the South Defense/Handout via Reuters)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the strikes in "no way related to infrastructure that is used for the export of grain."

Russia had initially denied any involvement in the Saturday strike but said Sunday its forces were responsible.

Ukrainian officials said they were working to get grain exports going again following the deal Ukraine and Russia signed on Friday. Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said grain exports would begin on Wednesday, according to the Kyiv Independent.

The United Nations and Turkey helped broker the agreement, which calls for Russia's fleet in the Black Sea to allow safe passage through areas that Russia has blockaded since it launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February.

FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following a NATO summit, in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022.
FILE - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following a NATO summit, in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey expects Russia and Ukraine to adhere to the agreement.

Erdogan told state broadcaster TRT Haber, "We expect them to own up to the deals they signed and to act according to the responsibilities they undertook," according to Reuters news agency.

The White House said Monday the attack casts doubt on Russia's intentions to follow through with the agreement.

"We are going to be watching this closely to see if Russia meets their commitments under this arrangement since this attack casts serious doubt on Russia's credibility," a National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement.

The arrangement was hailed as an important step toward alleviating a global food crisis, with U.N. chief Guterres calling it "a beacon of hope, possibility and relief."

Gazprom

Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom added to the economic and political tensions of the war by announcing Monday it would again cut deliveries to Europe. The company said it would reduce gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which links Russia to Germany, to 20% of capacity.

The move raised fears that Russia was trying to pressure Europe over its support for Ukraine.

FILE - The Lakhta Center, the 87-story skyscraper, headquarters of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 25, 2021.
FILE - The Lakhta Center, the 87-story skyscraper, headquarters of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 25, 2021.

Russia said the action was taken because of mechanical reasons, while Germany said it saw no technical reason for the reduction.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Monday that Russia was using the gas restrictions to inflict "terror" on Europe, and he called for the European Union's next sanctions package against Moscow to be "significantly stronger."

"All this is done by Russia on purpose to make it as difficult as possible for Europeans to prepare for winter," he said.

Deportations

U.S. intelligence has concluded that Russia "almost certainly is using so-called filtration operations to conduct the detention and forced deportation of Ukrainian civilians to Russia."

Russia uses such operations to temporarily detain and screen Ukrainians to identify anyone perceived as a threat to Moscow, according to a memo by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence released on the agency's website Friday.

The ODNI said Ukrainians often face one of three fates after undergoing filtration.

Those who are deemed "non-threatening" to Russia may be permitted to remain in Ukraine with certain restrictions. Those deemed "less threatening, but still potentially resistant to Russian occupation" face forcible deportation to Russia.

And Ukrainians found to be most threatening to Russia, including anyone with ties to the military, "probably are detained in prisons in eastern Ukraine and Russia, though little is known about their fates," according to the memo.

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

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