Ukraine update: Russia issues security demands for grain export deal; US ‘concerned’ Russia may get Iranian ballistic missiles

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Turkey’s foreign minister relayed a new set of security terms that Russia has demanded to resume a deal to free up grain exports from Ukraine. Moscow pulled out of the agreement on Sunday, citing an alleged Ukrainian drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet over the weekend. 

“Russia has some security demands after the recent attack on its ships,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusogluset told a panel on Wednesday after talks with Moscow and Kyiv aimed at extending the agreement, Reuters reported. He added that Moscow is also concerned about its own fertilizer and grain exports because its ships are unable to dock.

“They still cannot get insurance and payments are not made. Therefore, a lot of countries’ ships are shying away from carrying these loads.” Cavusogluset said.

It appears that Russia’s pullout from the deal is what is prompting insurance companies to stop issuing new contracts. Cavusogluset expressed confidence that, if these concerns are addressed, Russia will agree to extend the July 22 deal.

Moscow’s pullout has not prevented ships from carrying Ukrainian grain along the route, but without new contracts, they likely won’t continue for long. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy credited efforts by Turkey and the U.N. with making it possible for grain-laden ships to continue to depart from Ukrainian ports but said that “a reliable and long-term defense is needed for the grain corridor.”

“Russia must clearly be made aware that it will receive a tough response from the world to any steps to disrupt our food exports,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Tuesday. “At issue here clearly are the lives of tens of millions of people.”

The July export deal between Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey was brokered by the United Nations in an urgent effort to stave off famine in poorer countries that rely on Ukrainian food exports.

Kyiv installs emergency heating stations amid power cuts

Zelenskyy also addressed power cuts in seven Ukrainian regions resulting from a barrage of Russian drone and missile attacks in several cities. Among these is the capital city of Kyiv, where workers scrambled to set up heating stations in preparation for continued outages.

“We will do everything we can to provide power and heat for the coming winter,” Zelenskyy said. “But we must understand that Russia will do everything it can to destroy normal life.”

Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said Ukrainian soldiers shot down 12 out of 13 Iranian drones overnight as Russia continued its attacks on Kyiv.

“We are now actively conducting a dialogue regarding the supply of modern air defense systems, we are working on this every day,” he said on the Telegram messaging app. 

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Russia ordered the evacuation of civilians living in a region along the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Ukrainian province of Kherson ahead of an expected Ukrainian counterattack on the key gateway to Russian-held Crimea. Moscow’s forces have been bracing for a counterattack for weeks as both sides continue to dig into their positions. 

State Dept spox calls infrastructure attacks ‘heinous’

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price denounced the most recent Russian attacks, stating that an estimated 100 missiles had been fired on Monday and Tuesday deliberately targeting Ukraine’s water and energy supplies.

“With temperatures dropping, these Russian attacks aimed at exacerbating human suffering are particularly heinous,” Price told reporters at a Tuesday press conference.

Price also announced that California-based Tetra Tech was awarded a $47.6 million contract to “provide urgent humanitarian demining assistance to Ukraine in the face of Russia’s brutal war of aggression.” He said the new contract is part of a $91.5 million pledge to Ukraine to provide demining assistance that was announced in August.

US ‘concerned’ about reports of Russia seeking ballistic missiles from Iran

A Pentagon spokesperson could not confirm reports that Russia is now seeking ballistic missiles from Iran but acknowledged that the U.S. has “concerns.”

Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder made the remarks at a press briefing Tuesday, during which he confirmed that Iran has provided Russia with hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia, which its forces have used in attacks on Ukraine.

“Iran has provided Russia with UAVs, which we anticipate they’ll likely seek more of those,” the general said. “We do have concerns that Russia may also seek to acquire additional advanced munition capabilities from Iran — for example, surface-to-surface missiles — to use in Ukraine. If we see Russia employing such capabilities on the battlefield, we’ll certainly do what we can to illuminate that.” 

Ryder said Russia’s increased reliance on Iran for munitions speaks to the Kremlin’s increasing isolation as well as Russia’s dwindling munitions.

“I think it does speak to the state of Russia’s munitions capability,” Ryder said. “We’ve said before that we assess that they continue to experience supply shortages when it comes to munitions — particularly guided munitions.” 

He added that the “continued collusion” between Russia and Iran is “disturbing” and, with regard to the Kremlin, “says a lot about the kind of company they keep and where they stand in the world right now in terms of isolation.”