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Russia, Ukraine sign Black Sea grain deal

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Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement Friday with the United Nations and Turkey to reopen Ukraine’s seaports and guarantee safe passage for the ships carrying Ukrainian grain in the Black Sea.

At a press conference in Istanbul unveiling the deal, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said: “This is an agreement for the world. It will bring relief for developing countries on the edge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable people on the edge of famine. It will help stabilize global food prices which were already at record-levels even before the war.”

The agreement was signed on Friday by Ukraine’s infrastructure minister and Russia’s defense minister. Both signed individual deals with the U.N. and Turkey, not each other.

The deal will allow the creation of a “control center” in Istanbul, which will coordinate and monitor the grain exports.

Russian media reported that safe corridors would be created from Odesa, a major export hub for Ukraine.

The deal paves the way for at least 20 million tons of grain to be released, as shipments from Ukraine, a major agricultural exporter, via its ports have been blocked since Russia invaded the country. This sparked fears of a global food crisis as prices shot up and Ukraine’s grain was stuck in its silos.

Ahead of the deal, Kyiv said that it needed security guarantees from Russia that it won’t attack the ports or grain ships when they start operating again.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, gave some details Friday on the deal. In a tweet, he warned that there would be “an immediate military response” in case of “provocations,” such as the presence of Russian representatives or ships in Ukrainian ports.

One of Moscow’s requests was to inspect ships carrying the grain to ensure that they would not be used to deliver weapons to Ukraine. Podolyak said that all inspections will be “carried out by joint groups in Turkish waters.”

Following the deal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will embark on a tour of Africa, visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia and Egypt — countries heavily dependent on wheat imports.

In an op-ed shared with African media, Lavrov blamed Western sanctions for exacerbating food shortages across the continent. “Russia will continue to fulfill in good faith its obligations under international contracts with regard to exports of food, fertilizers, energy and other goods vital for Africa,” he wrote.

Eddy Wax and Ilya Gridneff contributed reporting.

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