Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Says First Grain Ship ‘Nothing’, Economy Is In A Coma

  • Ukrainian grain carrier inspected in Turkey
  • The shipment is the first of its kind to leave Ukraine in wartime
  • But Ukrainian leader says much more is needed
  • Kyiv urgently needs to ship 10 million tons to reduce deficit

KYIV/ISTANBUL, Aug 3 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s President Volodymr Zelenskiy dismissed the importance of his country’s first grain export shipment since Russia invaded the country, saying it was carrying a fraction of the harvest Kyiv must sell. to help save its shattered economy.

His downbeat comments, via video for students in Australia on Wednesday, came as an inspection of the ship was completed in Turkey before continuing on to its final destination in Lebanon under a deal aimed at easing a global food crisis. read more

The ship, Razoni, left Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa early Monday with 26,527 tons of corn for Tripoli, Lebanon. It came after a UN-brokered grain and fertilizer export deal between Moscow and Kyiv last month, a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a protracted war of attrition.

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But Zelenskiy, speaking through an interpreter, said more time was needed to see if other grain shipments would follow.

“Recently, thanks to the UN in partnership with Turkey, we had a first grain delivery ship, but it’s still nothing. But we hope that it will be a trend that will continue,” he told the students.

He said that Ukraine had to export a minimum of 10 million tons of grain to urgently help reduce its budget deficit, which was running at $5 billion a month.

A senior Turkish official said three ships could leave Ukrainian ports daily after the Razoni’s departure, while Ukraine’s infrastructure minister said 17 more ships had been loaded with agricultural products and were waiting to sail.

Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine expects to export 20 million tons of grain stored in silos and 40 million tons of the harvest now underway, initially from Odessa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk.

“The war… is almost killing the economy. It’s in a coma,” Zelenskiy added. “Russia’s blockade of ports is a huge loss for the economy.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly warned that Moscow may try to obstruct exports despite signing the deal last month.


Russia, which blockaded Ukraine’s ports after starting what it called a “special military operation” on February 24, has said it wants more to be done to facilitate exports of its own grain and fertilizer. But he has positively hailed the departure of Ukraine’s first grain ship.

He has denied responsibility for the food crisis and said Western sanctions, which view the war as an unprovoked Russian imperial-style land grab, have curbed his exports.

Exports from Ukraine, one of the world’s top grain producers, are intended to ease rising prices and shortages as famine looms in some parts of the world.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the grain deal could offer a way out of the conflict.

“The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schroeder told the Stern weekly and RTL/ntv broadcasters on Wednesday, adding that he had met with Putin in Moscow last week.

“A first success is the grain deal, maybe that can slowly expand to a ceasefire.” read more

Ukraine’s General Staff on Wednesday cataloged heavy Russian shelling of Kharkiv and other cities and towns in its vicinity, as well as air and missile strikes on civilian objects. Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians, something it accuses Kyiv of.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its missiles had destroyed a depot containing Polish-supplied weapons in Ukraine’s Lviv region.

Reuters was unable to verify reports from the battlefield.

Zelenskiy, in a late-night speech on Tuesday, said his forces were still unable to overcome Russian advantages in heavy weapons and manpower despite arms supplies from the West.

“This is very much felt in combat, especially in the Donbas… It is hell there. Words cannot describe it,” he said.

Russia is fighting to take full control of Donbas, the most industrialized part of eastern Ukraine.

He told the United Nations on Tuesday that the conflict did not justify Moscow’s use of nuclear weapons, but that it might decide to use its nuclear arsenal in response to “direct aggression” by countries in the NATO military alliance. read more

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Reuters bureau reports; Written by Andrew Osborn; Edited by Andrew Cawthorne

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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