Ukraine says Russia’s withdrawal must precede any dialogue

  • Ukraine rejects Schroeder’s comments on a “negotiated solution” to the war
  • Zelensky aide says Schroeder ‘voice of Russia’s royal court’
  • A ship carrying grain from Ukraine on its way to Lebanon
  • Cargo shipments should sell a fraction of Kyiv’s crop to the rescue economy: Zelenskiy

Kyiv/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Ukraine on Wednesday denied former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s comments that Russia wanted a “negotiated solution” to the war and said any dialogue would depend on a Russian ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces. .

Schroeder, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has been increasingly mocked in Germany for his pro-Russia stance, said last month’s agreement on grain shipments from Ukraine, aimed at easing the global food crisis, may provide a way forward. Read more

The first grain ship since the war began passed through the Bosphorus on Wednesday on its way to Lebanon. Read more

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“The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schroeder told Stern Weekly and RTL/NTV, adding that he met Putin in Moscow last week. “The first success is the grain deal, perhaps it can be slowly expanded to a cease-fire.”

In response, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak called Schroeder “the voice of the Russian royal court” and made clear that the grain agreement would not lead to negotiations.

“If Moscow wants dialogue, the ball is in its court. First – ceasefire, troop withdrawal, then constructive (dialogue),” Podolak wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said there was nothing more ironic than “Putin’s followers” saying that Russia was ready for peace talks.

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“We hear and see this ‘preparedness’ every day: artillery strikes, missile terrorism against civilians, horrific mass crimes. Russia remains focused on war, and everything else is just a smokescreen,” he 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 forces across the border in what he called a “special military operation”. Initial efforts at peace talks in the early stages of the conflict went nowhere.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky played down its significance on Wednesday, saying the shipment was a fraction of the crop Kyiv had to sell to help save its shattered economy.

The ship Razzoni left Odessa on the Black Sea in the early hours of Monday morning, carrying 26,527 tons of corn to the Lebanese port of Tripoli.

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

He told the students, “Recently, thanks to the United Nations in partnership with Turkey, we have the first ship carrying grain, but it’s still nothing. But we hope this trend will continue.”

He said Ukraine, which was one of the world’s largest grain producers before the war, had to export at least 10 million tons of grain to urgently help cut its budget deficit of five billion dollars a month.

Harvest for the world

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

On Wednesday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmygal said that Ukraine’s forecast for the wartime 2022 season had increased to 65 million to 67 million tons of grain from 60 million tons.

And in a telegram, he praised the farmers for going ahead with the harvest, even in areas where the bombing continues.

Ukraine, known as the European breadbasket, hopes to export 20 million tons of grain kept in silos and 40 million tons of the current harvest, initially from Odessa, Pivdennyi and neighboring Chornomorsk.

“The war … is almost killing the economy. She is in a coma,” Zelensky said. “Russia’s closure of the ports is a huge loss for the economy,” he added.

Zelensky has repeatedly warned that Moscow may try to block exports despite signing the deal.

Russia, which closed the ports after the invasion on February 24, said it wanted to see more work to facilitate its own grain and fertilizer exports.

It has denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying that sanctions imposed by the West, which views the war as an unjustified Russian imperial-style land grab, have slowed its exports.

Russia also said the United States was directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine because American spies approve and coordinate Ukrainian missile strikes on Russian forces. Read more

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US President Joe Biden said he wanted Ukraine to defeat Russia and supplied Kyiv with billions of dollars in weapons. But the United States does not want a direct confrontation between American and Russian soldiers.

Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over a missile attack or explosion on Friday that appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline town of Olenivka being held by Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Donetsk.

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

Ukraine said on Wednesday that Russia had begun to form an offensive military force targeting Zelensky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih and warned that Moscow might prepare for new offensive operations in southern Ukraine.

Russia controls parts of southern Ukraine that it captured in the early stages of its invasion, but Kyiv has said it will launch a counterattack. On Tuesday, it said it had already retaken 53 villages in the occupied Kherson region. Read more

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Andrew Osborne and Nick McPhee; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Angus McSwan

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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