February 6, 2023

Kyiv, Ukraine (AFP) – Four more ships carrying agricultural goods stopped by the war in Ukraine He was given clearance on Sunday to leave the country’s Black Sea coast as analysts warned that Russia was moving troops and equipment toward the ports to fend off a Ukrainian counterattack.

The body overseeing an international deal aimed at getting about 20 million tons of grain out of Ukraine and feeding the millions of starving poor in AfricaIn the Middle East and parts of Asia, loaded ships are expected to leave Chornomorsk and Odessa on Monday.

Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations signed agreements last month to create a sea canal that would allow cargo ships to travel safely from ports besieged by the Russian military and through waters mined by the Ukrainian military. Execution of the deal, which has been in effect for four months, has been slow since the first ship launched last Monday.

During the last four months of the war, Russia focused on capturing the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists held some lands as self-proclaimed republics for eight years. Russian forces made incremental advances in the region bordering Russia while launching missile and missile attacks to limit the movements of Ukrainian fighters elsewhere.

The region’s governor Serhiy Hayday reported that five civilians were killed over the past day in Russian and separatist shelling of cities in the Donetsk region, a part of Donbass still under Ukrainian control. He and Ukrainian government officials have repeatedly urged civilians to evacuate boycott.

In a weekend analysis, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the Russian invasion that began on February 24 is “about to enter a new phase” in which fighting will shift west and south into a front line approximately 350 kilometers (217 miles) long. It extends from near the city of Zaporozhye to the city of Kherson occupied by Russia.

Kherson, located on the Dnieper River near its mouth with the Black Sea, came under Russian control early in the war and Ukrainian officials pledged to take it back. Kherson is located 227 kilometers (141 miles) from Odessa, home to Ukraine’s largest port, so the escalating conflict there could have repercussions for the international grain deal.

The city of Mykolaiv, an important shipbuilding center that is subjected to daily missile bombardment by Russian forces, is closer to Odessa. The governor of the Mykolaiv region, Vitaly Kim, said that an industrial facility on the outskirts of the regional capital was bombed early Sunday morning.

On Saturday, Russian forces launched air strikes, artillery shelling and redistribution of other weapons as part of attempts to defend their positions in occupied areas, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.

Citing Ukrainian local officials, the institute said the Russians “continue to accumulate large amounts of military equipment” in a town across the Dnieper River from Kherson. The research center said the preparations appear to be designed to defend the logistical routes leading into the city and to set up defensive positions on the river’s left bank.

Ukrainian officials were initially skeptical of the grain export deal, citing suspicions that Moscow would try to exploit the shipping activity of large forces abroad or to send long-range missiles from the Black Sea, as it did several times during the war. Agreements approved last month call for ships to leave Ukraine under military escort and undergo inspections.

Under the agreements, ships leaving Ukraine are checked by teams made up of officials from the three countries and the United Nations to ensure they are carrying only grain, fertilizer or food and no other goods. Ships heading inland are checked to ensure they are not carrying weapons.

The Joint Coordination Center, which is responsible for managing the deal, said three cargo ships that departed on Friday are expected to pass through Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait on Sunday after releasing inspections.. The Panama-flagged Navy Star, which is carrying 33,000 tons of grain to Ireland, had completed its inspection and was preparing to set sail.

The Turkish-flagged Polarnet, which was bound for Turkey, and the Maltese-flagged Rojen, were bound for the UK awaiting examination. Ships that carried more than 25,000 tons of corn between them were waiting to be examined. T

The Joint Coordination Center said three of the carriers that were allowed to leave Ukraine on Monday — Glory, Star Helena and Riva Wind, all of which carry the Marshall Islands flag — were transporting more than 171,000 tons of corn combined. The Glory heads to Istanbul, Star Helena to Nantong in China, and Riva Wind to the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun in Turkey.

The fourth ship allowed to depart, the Liberian-flagged tanker, Mustafa Nikati, is carrying more than 6,600 tons of sunflower oil to Monopoli, Italy.

The center also approved the first incoming ship under the agreement, saying that the Liberian-flagged Osprey S will head on Monday to the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk. Naval traffic tracking websites showed the ship, located north of the Black Sea, entering the Bosphorus, where the ships waited until inspection teams boarded.


Andrew Wilkes contributed reporting from Istanbul.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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