Russian ceasefire, withdrawal must precede any dialogue, Ukraine says

  • Ukraine rejects Schroeder comments on ‘negotiated solution’ to war
  • Schroeder ‘voice of Russian royal court,’ says Zelenskiy aide
  • Grain transport ship from Ukraine on its way to Lebanon
  • Shiploads a fraction of the harvest Kiev must sell to save the economy: Zelenskiy

KYIV/ISTANBUL, Aug. 3 (Reuters) – Ukraine on Wednesday rejected comments by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that Russia wanted a “negotiated solution” to the war, saying any dialogue would depend on a Russian ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Schroeder, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and increasingly mocked in Germany for his pro-Russian stance, said last month’s agreement on grain shipments from Ukraine aimed at alleviating a global food crisis could provide a way out. . read more

The first grain ship since the start of the war passed through the Bosphorus on its way to Lebanon on Wednesday. read more

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“The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schroeder told Stern Weekblad and broadcasters RTL/ntv, adding that he met Putin in Moscow last week. “A first success is the grain deal, perhaps that can be slowly extended to a ceasefire.”

In response, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described Schroeder as a “voice of the Russian royal court” and made it clear that the grain deal would not lead to negotiations.

“If Moscow wants dialogue, the ball is in its court. First – a ceasefire and withdrawal of troops, then – constructive (dialogue),” Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

The grain deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, has been hailed as a rare diplomatic success in the more than five months of war since Putin sent his troops across the border on what he calls a “special military operation.” Preliminary efforts at peace talks in the early stages of the conflict were unsuccessful.

But Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy downplayed its importance on Wednesday, saying the shipment was a fraction of the crop Kiev must sell to help save its shattered economy.

The ship, Razoni, departed early Monday from Odessa on the Black Sea carrying 26,527 tons of corn to the Lebanese port of Tripoli.

Zelenskiy, who spoke to students in Australia via video interpreter, said more time was needed to see if other grain shipments would follow.

“Recently, thanks to the UN in cooperation with Turkey, we had a first ship with the delivery of grain, but it is still nothing. But we hope it is a trend that will continue,” he told the students.

He said Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain producers before the war, had to export a minimum of 10 million tons of grain to urgently help reduce its budget deficit, which rose to $5 billion a month.

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A senior Turkish official said three ships were able to leave Ukrainian ports daily after the Razoni’s departure, while Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said 17 more ships were loaded with agricultural products and waiting to set sail.

Ukraine’s forecast for its wartime harvest in 2022 has risen from 60 million tons to 65 million to 67 million tons of grain, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said on Wednesday.

In a Telegram message, he praised farmers for continuing to harvest, even in areas where shelling continues.

Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tons of grain in silos and 40 million tons of the current crop, initially from Odessa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk.

“The war… almost kills the economy. It’s in a coma,” Zelenskiy said. “The blocking of ports by Russia is a major loss to the economy.”

Zelenskiy has repeatedly warned that Moscow may try to hinder exports despite signing the deal.

Russia, which blocked ports after the February 24 invasion, has said it wants to see more to facilitate exports of its own grain and fertilizers.

It has denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying sanctions from the West, which sees the war as an unprovoked Imperial-style Russian land grab, have slowed exports.

Russia also said the United States was directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine because US spies authorized and coordinated Ukrainian missile strikes on Russian forces. read more

US President Joe Biden has said he wants Ukraine to defeat Russia and has delivered billions of dollars worth of weapons to Kiev. But the United States does not want a direct confrontation between American and Russian soldiers.

Ukraine and Russia have exchanged allegations over a rocket attack or explosion on Friday that appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline city of Olenivka, which is being held by Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Donetsk.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he would launch a fact-finding mission into the dead, which he said had been requested by both sides. read more

Ukraine said on Wednesday that Russia had begun setting up a military strike force targeting Zelenskiy’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih and warned Moscow could prepare new offensive operations in southern Ukraine.

Russia holds parts of southern Ukraine it captured in the early stages of its invasion, but Kiev has said it will mount a counter-offensive. It said on Tuesday it had already recaptured 53 villages in the occupied Kherson region. read more

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Reporting by Reuters agencies; Written by Andrew Osborn and Nick Macfie; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Angus MacSwan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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