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Putin caves in and agrees last-minute grain ship deal

By Michael Powell

VLADIMIR PUTIN bowed to international pressure last night and agreed a new deal to allow ships carrying millions of tons of grain safe passage to leave Ukraine.

The United Nations hailed the deal as ‘critical for global food security’ amid warnings that a failure to agree terms would make prices soar even higher and plunge millions of people into famine.

Ukraine produces about ten per cent of the world’s wheat, 40 per cent of its sunflower oil and 20 per cent of its corn. But these exports were halted when Russia invaded in February last year and blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

The UN and Turkey brokered a deal last summer which has allowed 25million tons of grain and foodstuffs to leave Ukraine.

That agreement was due to expire at midnight last night, leading to a tense showdown between Russian and Western diplomats. Moscow had resisted calls for a four-month rollover of the agreement and tried to use the talks as a bargaining chip to ease crippling economic sanctions.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal accused the Kremlin of ‘blackmail’.

Russia had called for just a 60-day extension to the deal after protesting that its agricultural exports were not getting to global markets due to Western sanctions.

There were fears Putin could pull the plug on the grain deal altogether after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him on Friday.

He visited Crimea yesterday to mark the ninth anniversary of its annexation by Russia, and was walking with a limp. Then hours before the deadline in talks in Geneva last night, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said a deal had been struck. Ukraine said it had been extended for 120 days but this was unconfirmed by Russia.

UK Deputy Ambassador to the UN James Kariuki had earlier said nearly 50million were ‘one step away from famine – this is the global cost of Russia’s actions’.

Shashwat Saraf from the International Rescue Committee said the grain deal was ‘critical’, adding: ‘Somalia is on the verge of famine and Kenya and Ethiopia have incredibly alarming hunger statistics.’

Sir Tony Brenton, a former British ambassador to Russia, said Putin had to tread carefully as he did not want to upset his few remaining allies in Africa by being ‘seen to be hostile to the world’s poor’.





dmg media (UK)