Change in war front as ships are allowed to leave Ukraine
Kyiv, Ukraine — Four other ships carrying agricultural goods stranded by war in Ukraine were given permission to leave the country’s Black Sea coast on Sunday, as analysts warned that Russia was moving troops and equipment to ports to avoid a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
The body overseeing an international deal to get some 20 million tonnes of grain out of Ukraine and feed millions of impoverished people who are hungry in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia said the loaded ships should leave Chornomorsk and Odessa by Monday.
Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations signed agreements last month to create a shipping channel that would allow cargo ships to travel safely out of ports blocked by the Russian military and into waters mined by the Ukrainian army. Implementation of the agreement, which has been in place for four months, has progressed slowly since the first ship embarked last Monday.
In the last four months of the war, Russia has focused on capturing the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have controlled some territories as self-declared republics for eight years. . Russian forces gradually advanced in Russia’s border region while launching missile and rocket attacks to limit the movement of Ukrainian fighters elsewhere.
Over the past day, five civilians have been killed in Russian and separatist fire on towns in the Donetsk region, the part of Donbass still under Ukrainian control, regional governor Serhiy Haidai reported. He and Ukrainian government officials have repeatedly urged civilians to evacuate the province.
In an analysis over the weekend, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the Russian invasion which began on February 24 “is about to enter a new phase” in which the shift in fighting would shift to the north. west and south to a front line of some 350 kilometers (217 miles) stretching from near the city of Zaporizhzhia to Russian-occupied Kherson.
Kherson, located on the Dnieper River near its mouth with the Black Sea, came under Russian control early in the war and Ukrainian officials vowed to retake it. Kherson is located 227 kilometers (141 miles) from Odessa, home to Ukraine’s biggest port, so an escalation of the conflict there could have repercussions for the international grain deal.
The city of Mykolaiv, a major shipbuilding center that comes under daily rocket fire from Russian forces, is even closer to Odessa. Mykolaiv region governor Vitaliy Kim said an industrial facility on the outskirts of the regional capital came under fire early on Sunday.
On Saturday, Russian forces launched airstrikes, fired artillery and redistributed other weapons as part of attempts to defend their positions in occupied areas, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a group of Washington’s reflection.
Citing local Ukrainian officials, the institute said the Russians “continue to accumulate large amounts of military equipment” in a town across the Dnieper from Kherson. Preparations appeared designed to defend logistical routes to the city and to establish defensive positions on the left bank of the river, the think tank said.
Ukrainian officials were initially skeptical of a grain export deal, citing suspicions that Moscow would try to exploit maritime activity to amass troops off the coast or send long-range missiles from the sea Noire, as he did on several occasions during the war. Agreements approved last month provide for ships to leave Ukraine under military escort and undergo inspections.
Under the agreements, ships leaving Ukraine are inspected by teams made up of officials from the three countries and the UN to ensure that they are carrying only grain, fertilizer or food and no other goods. . Incoming ships are screened to ensure they are not carrying weapons.
The Joint Coordination Center, which is responsible for managing the deal, said three cargo ships that left on Friday were due to cross Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait on Sunday after being inspected. The Navi Star, flying the Panamanian flag, which transports 33,000 tonnes of cereals to Ireland, has completed its inspection and is preparing to set sail.
The Polarnet, Turkish flag, bound for Turkey, and the Rojen, Maltese flag, bound for the United Kingdom were waiting to be checked. The ships were carrying more than 25,000 tons of corn between them, waiting to be checked. J
The Joint Coordination Center said three of the carriers cleared to leave Ukraine on Monday – the Glory, Star Helena and Riva Wind, all flying the flag of the Marshall Islands – were carrying more than 171,000 tonnes of maize combined. The Glory is destined for Istanbul, the Star Helena for Nantong in China and the Riva Wind for the Turkish port of Iskenderun on the Mediterranean.
The fourth vessel authorized to leave, the oil tanker Mustafa Necati, flying the Liberian flag, is carrying more than 6,600 tonnes of sunflower oil bound for Monopoli, Italy.
The center also cleared the first ship to enter under the deal, saying the Liberian-flagged Osprey S would head to the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk on Monday. Vessel traffic monitoring sites showed the ship north of the Black Sea entrance to the Bosphorus, where ships waited for inspection teams to board.
Andrew Wilks contributed reporting from Istanbul.
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