Ukraine and Russia signed a deal Friday to release an estimated 22 million tons of wheat and other crops, allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported, which will be supervised by Turkey and the United Nations.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres attended the signing ceremony, with Russia represented by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukraine by the Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, who signed the deal separately with Turkey and the UN.
Turkey first announced the tentative deal last week after hosting talks between Russia, Ukraine, and the UN. Under the agreement, Ukrainian vessels would guide ships in and out of Ukraine’s heavily mined ports, and Russia would agree not to attack the area while shipments were moving.
Turkey’s role will be to inspect ships leaving Ukrainian ports for smuggled arms, and Istanbul would have the support of the UN for the mission. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to be in Istanbul on Friday for the signing of the deal.
Turkey has emerged as a broker between Russia and Ukraine and has been calling for a negotiated solution to end the war, unlike the US and other NATO members that have shown little interest in diplomacy.
Despite having no involvement in the brokering of the grain deal, the US said Thursday that it will hold Russia “accountable” to see that it’s implemented.
The Russian and Ukrainian authorities have committed themselves not to targetting merchant ships, civilian vessels, and the ports, but it is reported that the Ukrainians have not sought any specific security guarantees.
A senior UN official said the Russians had kept their word when a deal was made to evacuate the Ukrainian city of Mariupol and the embattled steel factory Azovstal earlier this year, so they expect the Russians would uphold the current agreement.