Amid a growing global food crisis, Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements Friday with Turkey and the United Nations to allow Russia to export grain and fertilizer, officials said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been trying to free up Ukrainian grain that has been stuck in Black Sea ports for months. The Russian blockage of millions of tons of grain has led to food shortages in Africa and Asia.
“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea,” Guterres said Friday. “A beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever.”
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil. At least 22 million tons of grain are stuck there due to the war.
The deals were signed by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Guterres.
“You have overcome obstacles and put aside differences to pave the way for an initiative that will serve the common interests of all,” Guterres said to Russian and Ukrainian representatives.
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►Emergency workers recovered three bodies from a school destroyed by a Russian strike in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, officials said Friday. The shelling also damaged 85 residential buildings, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office.
►Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said Friday they blocked Google in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, separatist leader Denis Pushilin posted to Telegram. Pushilin’s Telegram post claims Google is full of anti-Russian propaganda.
►A bipartisan group of senators introduced a resolution that recognizes Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide. The measure, introduced by Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch, says the Kremlin has committed “heinous crimes against humanity.”
►Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh, 20, won a silver medal at the world championships after clearing 2.02 meters. The win comes shortly after Mahuchikh’s escape from her hometown of Dnipro after it came under Russian attack.
White House announces new $270M aid package
The United States is sending another $270 million in security assistance to Ukraine, White House spokesman John Kirby said Friday. The latest package includes Phoenix Ghost drones, medium range rocket systems as well as ammunition and anti-armor systems.
More help will likely be announced “in the not-too distant future,” Kirby said.
The Defense Department is also exploring providing US fighter jets to Ukraine. But even if that happens, it won’t be anytime soon, Kirby said, because of the complexities of integrating and operating advanced fighter jets.
Kirby said the United States is hopeful that agreements Russia and Ukraine reached Friday with Turkey and the United Nations on grain and fertilizer will alleviate a global food crisis. But a lot will depend on how the agreements are implemented, he added, and “the degree to which the Russians actually meet their end of the bargain here.”
UK intelligence service chief calls Russian invasion an ‘epic fail’
The chief of the United Kingdom’s intelligence service called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an “epic fail,” adding that the country appears to be “about to run out of steam.”
Russian forces have likely lost about 15,000 troops, said Richard Moore, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, also known a MI6, during this week’s Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. He called the number a “conservative estimate” and said that is roughly the same number of troops Russia lost in 10 years during its war in Afghanistan.
Moore acknowledged Russian forces had made progress in recent weeks but called it incremental. He said Russia “has suffered a strategic failure in Ukraine” and will face difficulties in manpower and materials in the next few weeks.
“They will have to pause in some way and that will give the Ukrainians opportunities to strike back,” he said, adding that Ukrainian morale is still high and they’re receiving powerful weapons from other countries.
Russia also underestimated Ukrainian resistance, Moore said.
“They clearly completely misunderstood Ukrainian nationalism,” he said. “They completely underrated the degree of resistance the Russian military would face.”
US may send fighter jets to Ukraine, top military official says
Gen. Charles Brown, Air Force chief of staff, says the United States and its allies are considering providing Ukraine with fighter jets, a decision that would sharply escalate the level of weaponry being sent to Kyiv.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded for fighter jets for months, saying Russia’s air supremacy has been a major stumbling block in his country’s efforts to repel the invasion. In March, the US and NATO scuttled Poland’s proposal to send its Russian-built MiGs to Ukraine, with White House national security spokesman John Kirby saying at the time the proposal might be “mistaken as escalatory.”
Brown said Wednesday in an interview at the Aspen Security Forum that Russian MiGs won’t be sent to Ukraine, saying with a laugh that it will “be tougher to get parts” from the Russians.