Moscow and Kyiv are set to sign a deal to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for grain exports, Turkey has said – raising hopes an international food crisis caused by Russia’s invasion could be eased.
Full details of the reported agreement between Russia and Ukraine have not yet been released.
However, it is due to be signed at 1:30pm GMT (2:30pm UK time) on Friday, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan’s office said.
The blockade by Russia’s Black Sea fleet has reduced supplies to markets around the world and sent grain prices soaring.
Moscow has denied responsibility for worsening the food crisis, blaming instead Western sanctions for slowing its own food and fertiliser exports and Ukraine for mining its Black Sea ports.
Ukraine and Russia, both among the world’s biggest exports of food, did not immediately confirm Thursday’s announcement by the office of the Turkish presidency.
However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hinted his country’s Black Sea ports could soon be unblocked in a late night video address.
Mr Zelenskyy, whose address mainly focused on the potential of the Ukrainian forces to make gains on the battlefield, said: “And tomorrow we also expect news for our state from Turkey – regarding the unblocking of our ports.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UN and Turkey have been working for two months to broker a “package” to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports and facilitate Russian grain and fertiliser shipments.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement that the 27-nation bloc proposed to ease some earlier sanctions in a bid to safeguard global food security, and Moscow hoped this would create conditions for the unhindered export of grain and fertilisers.
A UK Foreign Office spokesperson said: “This agreement must not only be agreed but also implemented.
“We have worked closely with the UN, Turkey, Ukraine and our G7 and G20 partners to unblock the grain that Putin has deliberately used to weaponise food.”
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington DC would focus on holding Moscow accountable for carrying out the agreement.
It comes as Mr Zelenskyy met senior commanders on Thursday to discuss weapons supplies and intensifying attacks on
“(We) agreed that our forces have the strong potential to advance on the battlefield and inflict significant new losses on
the occupiers,” the Ukrainian president said in his video address.
Ukraine has accused Russia of stepping up missile strikes on cities in recent weeks to terrorise its population.
Moscow denies attacking civilians and says all its targets are military.