Chris Lange, FISM News
A Russian delegation said Monday that Moscow is prepared to accept a short-term extension of a grain export deal following talks with senior U.N. officials.
The Russia-Ukraine pact to ensure safe shipments of food products out of Ukraine’s ports was set to expire on Saturday. The delegation said Moscow would agree to half of the agreement’s 120-day extension, after which Moscow will make an assessment of how the arrangement is working, The Associated Press reported.
The United Nations said that it “notes” the Kremlin’s announcement and reaffirmed its support for the agreement struck in July as “part of the global response to the most severe cost-of-living crisis in a generation.” Roughly 24 million tons of grain have been shipped out of three of Ukraine’s Black Sea Ports so far under the pact, more than half of which have gone to developing countries.
“The U.N. Secretary-General has confirmed that the U.N. will do everything possible to preserve the integrity of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and ensure its continuity,” The U.N. declared in a statement.
Ukrainian officials said they would stick to the original 120-day extension and accused Russia of subverting the landmark deal, though the pact includes a provision allowing both sides to implement modifications.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Monday that the deal is a “critical instrument at a critical time” and stressed the need for its extension.
The Kremlin has expressed dissatisfaction with a parallel deal to ship its own grain and fertilizer through the Black Sea.
“The comprehensive and frank conversation has once again confirmed that while the commercial export of Ukrainian products is carried out at a steady pace, bringing considerable profits to Kyiv, restrictions on the Russian agricultural exporters are still in place,” the Russian delegation said in a statement. The group added that “sanctions exemptions for food and fertilizers announced by Washington, Brussels, and London are essentially inactive.”
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric pointed out, however, that Russian food and fertilizer had not been sanctioned and suggested reduced agricultural exports were due to the fact that private companies had become wary of dealing with Moscow. Dujarric said that the U.N. has been working to facilitate Russian agricultural exports and has “asked for letters of comfort from certain governments.”
FIRST ROUND OF ARRESTS FOR RUSSIAN WAR CRIMES EXPECTED IN ‘SHORT TERM’
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is expected to announce arrest warrants in what would be the first international war crimes cases of the Russian invasion. Warrants will be issued to Russian officials involved in targeting civilian infrastructure and carrying out the forced deportation of Ukrainian children into Russia, per Reuters. The news service cited a source with knowledge of the matter who said arrests are expected to arrive in the “short term” if the Hague-based court grants the prosecutor’s request. The source noted that warrants could include the crime of genocide.
Russia has repeatedly denied that its forces have committed war crimes, despite powerful alleged evidence to the contrary.
XI TO REACH OUT TO ZELENSKYY FOR FIRST TIME SINCE INVASION, SOURCE SAYS
Chinese President Xi Jinping plans to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy following the Chinese Communist Party leader’s anticipated visit to Moscow, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. If the report is accurate, it would mark the first time the two leaders have spoken since Russia’s invasion. Several media outlets have suggested that Xi’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin could take place as early as next week, after which Xi reportedly plans to speak with Zelenskyy in a virtual call. The sources suggested that the talks are part of China’s ramped-up effort to play a more prominent role in mediating a peace agreement.
Kyiv has neither confirmed nor denied the report.
China proposed a 12-point peace plan on the anniversary of the Russian invasion last month which was widely panned by the West as a vague and meaningless gesture.
A Xi-Zelenskyy meeting would add to speculation that Beijing is attempting to enhance its diplomacy profile and global influence. A Chinese-brokered deal to restore ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia announced last week was seen as a major diplomatic victory for the Chinese Communist Party.
ZELENSKYY: UKRAINE’S FUTURE HINGES ON BATTLE OUTCOMES IN EAST
President Zelenskyy said that Ukraine’s future will be determined by the outcome of battles in the Donetsk region in the east, including the fierce and bloody contest for control of Bakhmut. Both sides have acknowledged that weeks of relentless fighting there has taken a heavy toll, though neither has specified its own number of casualties.
The Ukrainian leader said on Sunday that his forces had killed more than 1,100 Russian soldiers last week, Newsmax reported.
“In less than a week, starting from the 6th March, we managed to kill more than 1,100 enemy soldiers in the Bakhmut sector alone, Russia’s irreversible loss,” Zelenskyy said. He added that Moscow’s forces also sustained 1,500 “sanitary losses” — a reference to soldiers who sustained injuries serious enough to take them out of action.
FISM reported on Monday that Moscow’s advances in and around Bakhmut appeared to have stalled over the weekend.