Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed optimism that his country will soon be able to export grain again. In Turkey, internationally mediated talks about ending the Russian naval blockade in the Black Sea had brought a breakthrough, according to the UN. At the same time, the conflict over the Russian Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad defused after the EU eased transit restrictions on rail freight transport.
According to Zelenskyy, there is a good chance that the blocked grain exports will be unblocked soon. “The Ukrainian delegation informed me that there is some progress,” he said in his video address on Wednesday on the negotiations in Turkey on the lifting of the naval blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russian Navy. Zelenskyy assured that if the Russian threat to shipping in the Black Sea was successfully ended, the global food crisis would become less acute. Before the war, Ukraine was one of the largest grain exporters in the world.
At the talks between representatives of the United Nations, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey in Istanbul, a “decisive step” was taken towards a solution to the grain conflict, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in New York on Wednesday. “Today we finally have a bit of hope.” At first he did not give any details. But Guterres said, “More technical work will be needed for today’s progress to materialize.”
For his part, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced agreements on technical issues such as joint controls on arrivals and departures from ports, Anadolu Agency reported. Agreement was also reached on ensuring “shipping safety on the transfer routes”. In addition, a coordination center with representatives from all sides on the Bosporus should be created in Istanbul.
In his video address, the Ukrainian President also referred to his planned appearance at a forum in The Hague on the prosecution of war crimes in Ukraine on Thursday. “We must coordinate our efforts in such a way that all guilty parties receive their just punishment,” said Zelenskyy. Since the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, numerous war crimes have also been recorded against the civilian population. Zelenskyj was convinced that the perpetrators would be brought before an international court.
Following protests and threats from Moscow, the EU Commission has drawn up new guidelines for transit traffic between Russia and its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad. According to this, Russia is allowed to transport civilian goods such as wood and cement that are on the EU sanctions list by rail through the EU country Lithuania without major restrictions.
The Foreign Ministry in Moscow rated the EU decision as a “sign of realism and common sense”. At the same time, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova emphasized that questions remained unanswered and that Russia would monitor how the new regulation was implemented.
The Kaliningrad exclave around the former Königsberg lies between the EU states of Lithuania and Poland. It is only about 500 kilometers from Berlin, but more than 1000 kilometers from Moscow.
Ukraine has severed diplomatic ties with North Korea. The leadership in Pyongyang – like Russia and Syria before them – had previously recognized the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which had broken away from Kyiv, as independent states. “We view this decision as an attempt by Pyongyang to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Wednesday. The recognition is void and does not entail any legal consequences.
In the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, the separatists, supported by the Russian army, have claimed territory in the small town of Soledar. Separatist representative Vitaly Kiselev told the Russian state agency TASS on Wednesday that Russian troops had entered Soledar and forced the Ukrainian army to withdraw. He expects the city to be captured within the next two days.
The small town’s chief of military administration, Serhij Hoschko, contradicted the account. “There was an attempt by the Russian army to advance to Yakovlivka, which Ukrainian soldiers successfully repulsed,” he told Ukrainian public television. Three houses were destroyed in the village northeast of Soledar. Four houses were also destroyed in the nearby village of Bachmutske, southeast of Soledar. Rosdoliwka to the north had also been shelled.
In the war against Russia, Ukraine is hoping for longer-range missiles from the United States. “At all levels, our state is holding talks with US officials about providing longer-range missiles for the Himar missile launchers,” Fedir Venislavsky, a member of the parliament’s Defense Committee, told Ukrainian television on Wednesday. The army currently only has projectiles with a range of around 70 kilometers for this type of rocket launcher. However, there are also missiles for targets a good 300 and 500 kilometers away.
In the past few days, the Ukrainian military had already successfully attacked more than a dozen objects in the rear of the Russian troops, some of which were far away, presumably with Himar rocket launchers. Kyiv also uses the less precise Soviet-made Tochka-U missiles for ranges of up to 120 kilometers.