Kyiv | Russia resumed participation in Ukraine’s grain export agreement on Wednesday after receiving “written guarantees” from Ukraine to demilitarize the corridor used for their transportation.
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For its part, the United States said it was “increasingly concerned” about the possible use of nuclear weapons by Russia in Ukraine, while Moscow has multiplied both threats and attempts at appeasement in recent months and again recently.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is the guarantor of the grain deal crucial to world food security, confirmed the resumption of Ukrainian exports to the Black Sea via the safe corridor from midday on Wednesday.
“Russia considers the guarantees received so far to be sufficient and is resuming the implementation of the agreement,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a telegram.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, another guarantor of the deal, welcomed Russia’s decision “warmly”.
Moscow suspended its participation in the grain deal on Saturday after a drone strike on its fleet in Sevastopol Bay in annexed Crimea. The Russian army, with the help of “British experts”, has attributed this operation to Ukraine, stating that it was carried out in particular from the sea corridor reserved for Ukrainian exports.
A series of phone calls in recent days between Russian and Turkish officials, including on Tuesday between Mr Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin, and UN advocacy appear to have persuaded Moscow to reconsider its position.
“Thanks to the participation of an international organization, as well as Turkey’s cooperation, Ukraine received the necessary written guarantees about not using the humanitarian corridor and designated Ukrainian ports for the export of agricultural products for hostile actions against Russia,” the Russian military said.
Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, warned that Russia reserves the right to “withdraw from the agreement in the event of Ukraine violating these guarantees”.
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Fears of a possible nuclear strike in Ukraine grew in urgency after the United States raised fresh concerns that “over the months” have become “more and more concerned about that possibility,” according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby enclosed to U.S. President Joe Biden.
The comments follow information from the American newspaper The New York Times that Russian military leaders recently discussed the possibility of using a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, a bomb less powerful than a conventional nuclear warhead.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that it was “irresponsible” for the Western media to “deliberately inflate the issue of nuclear weapons.”
The day before, former Russian President and current Security Council No. 2 Dmitry Medvedev had again invoked nuclear weapons and warned Ukraine of its desire to retake all Russian-held territories.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the “top priority” is to avoid a war between nuclear powers, which would have “catastrophic consequences”.
Russia recently accused Ukraine of searching for a “dirty bomb,” allegations brushed aside by Kyiv and its western allies, who felt it could be used by Moscow as a pretext for escalation while its army threw backs chained.
“We got used to it”
On the ground, clashes continued Wednesday in Ukraine with fighting mostly in the east and bombing raids on 25 locations in the east, center and south, according to the Ukrainian military command.
The governor of the Donetsk region in the east, Pavlo Kyrylenko, reported the deaths of 4 civilians in the last 24 hours.
AFP journalists have seen extensive destruction in the village of Bilozirka on the southern frontline of Kherson, the region’s capital, where Russian forces are fortifying their positions for an imminent Ukrainian attack.
At Bilozirka, Russian forces are firing volleys from the southern end of the road, where they have been holed up since withdrawing from that village in March.
“In the beginning we just thought about when it would finally be over. But now it seems normal. We got used to it,” said a young resident, Angelika Borysenko, 20 years old.
Russia launched a new wave of massive strikes against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure on Monday, leading to disruptions to water and electricity supplies, particularly in Kyiv.
Ukrainian operator Ukrenergo announced new electricity restrictions on Wednesday, while the mayor of the Ukrainian capital, Vitaly Klitschko, vowed to set up a thousand “heating points” for residents by winter.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian strikes damaged 40% of Ukraine’s energy assets, prompting the country to halt exports to the EU, where prices are skyrocketing.