December 4, 2022

UN chief says ‘substantive step’ made at Ukraine grain talks


Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday made substantive progress in their first direct talks since March on a deal to relieve a global food crisis caused by blocked Black Sea grain exports. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the talks had provided a “ray of hope to ease human suffering and alleviate hunger around the world” but cautioned that while he was optimistic, a deal was “not yet fully done”. Read about the day’s events as they unfolded on our live blog. All times are Paris time, GMT+2.

This live page is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

July 14, 01:16am: North Korea recognises independence of Ukraine’s pro-Russian breakaway regionsNorth Korea has formally recognised the pro-Russian separatist regions in Ukraine’s east as independent countries, state media said Thursday.

In letters to the separatist leaders, Pyongyang said it “decided to recognise the independence of the People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Lugansk and expressed the will to develop the state-to-state relations with those countries in the idea of independence, peace and friendship,” according to North Korean state media KCNA.

North Korea is only the third country, after Russia and Syria, to acknowledge the self-proclaimed republics.

9:20pm: UN chief hopes a final Ukraine grain deal will be reached next weekUN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that an “important and substantive step” had been made towards reaching a comprehensive deal to resume Black Sea exports of Ukraine grain after talks between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and UN officials on Wednesday.

“Next week, hopefully, we’ll be able to have a final agreement. But, as I said, we still need a lot of goodwill and commitments by all parties,” he told reporters in New York.

He said that although Ukraine and Russia had engaged, “for peace we still have a long way to go”.

6:51pm: Ukraine cuts ties with North Korea over recognition of breakaway regionsUkraine severed relations with North Korea on Wednesday over Pyongyang’s recognition of two breakaway self-proclaimed republics in Ukraine’s east. “We consider this decision as an attempt by Pyongyang to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

6:45pm: Russian and allied forces have entered Ukraine’s SieverskRussian forces and troops of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) have entered the city limits of Sieversk in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Russian state news agency TASS quoted Vitaly Kiselyov, assistant to LPR’s interior minister, as saying on Wednesday.

Kiselyov was quoted as saying the city could be taken in a couple of days.

6:05pm: North Korea recognises the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic, formed by pro-Russian separatists Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said Wednesday that their self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic had been recognised by North Korea. 

It follows that of Russian ally Syria late last month and of Russia itself, which came shortly before Moscow began its operation in Ukraine on February 24, they said.

Shortly before, Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin had announced that Pyongyang had recognised the entity. “The international status of the Donetsk People’s Republic continues to grow,” he said. “It’s a new victory for our diplomacy,” he added in remarks to AFP.

Later, a representative from eastern Ukraine’s other self-proclaimed rebel republic, the Lugansk People’s Republic, also said it had been recognised by North Korea.

There has been no immediate comment from North Korea.

4:57pm: Russia-Ukraine grain talks end in IstanbulRussian and Ukrainian defence delegations have concluded their closed-door talks on unblocking Black Sea grain exports, the Turkish defence ministry said Wednesday, without disclosing details.

The Turkish ministry issued a one-sentence statement saying the talks had “ended”, without specifying if any progress had been made in the first direct negotiations between the two sides since March.

4:43pm: Russia and Ukraine seek to break grain exports impasse in TurkeyRussia and Ukraine on Wednesday held their first direct negotiations since March in the hopes of breaking an impasse over grain exports that has seen food prices soar and millions face hunger.

The high-stakes meeting involving UN and Turkish officials in Istanbul came as Russia and Ukraine are locked in a furious long-range shooting battle that is destroying towns and leaving people with nothing.

Ukrainian officials said at least five people died in Russian shelling in the region surrounding the Black Sea port city of Mykolaiv.

“You never get used to war. It’s dreadful and scary,” 60-year-old Lyubov Mozhayeva said in the partially destroyed frontline city of Bakhmut.

The first face-to-face talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations since March 29 took place as the poorest parts of the world face the threat of food shortages.

1:43pm: Russian shelling kills five in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region, Kyiv saysAt least five people were killed Wednesday in Russian shelling in the region surrounding the embattled Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv near the Black Sea, the Ukrainian presidency said.

The presidential deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko said several strikes damaged a hospital and homes in the region, adding that “there were also artillery strikes in the Vitovsk district and according to preliminary information five civilians were killed”.  

1:28pm: Russia’s deepening ties with Iran represent a ‘profound threat’, White House saysRussian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to deepen ties with Iran amid the Ukraine conflict represent a “profound threat”, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Wednesday.

Sullivan’s comments come as US officials have said Iran is preparing to help supply Russia with several hundred drones, including some that are weapons-capable, to use in Ukraine. Putin is expected to visit Tehran next week.

12:55pm: Ukraine rules out ceding territory to Russia to secure peaceUkrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday ruled out ceding territory to Russia as part of any peace deal and said no peace talks were under way between Moscow and Kyiv.

“The objective of Ukraine in this war […] is to liberate our territories, restore our territorial integrity, and full sovereignty in the east and south of Ukraine,” he told a briefing.

11:45am: Russia says it expects progress over possible EU deal on shipments to Kaliningrad The Kremlin said on Wednesday it was expecting progress over a possible European Union deal to allow Russia to transit some sanctioned goods to its Kaliningrad exclave via the EU, but the problem had not been resolved.

Lithuania blocked Russia from sending goods that have fallen under EU sanctions across its territory in June, triggering outrage in Moscow and promises of a response.

11:32am: Two-thirds of refugees from Ukraine plan to stay put for now, UN saysAround two-thirds of refugees from Ukraine expect to stay in their host countries until hostilities subside and the security situation improves, a survey by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has found.

Most of the refugees from Ukraine, mainly women and children, hope to return home eventually, according to the survey of around 4,900 people from Ukraine now living in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

The survey was conducted between mid-May and mid-June. UNHCR says more than 5.6 million refugees are now recorded across Europe, with nearly 8.8 million people crossing out of Ukraine and nearly 3.3 million crossing back into the country since the Russian invasion on February 24.

6:51am: Ukraine launches rocket attacks on Russian-held area in Kherson regionUkraine launched long-range rocket attacks on Russian forces in southern Ukraine and destroyed an ammunition store, its military said, as Russia continued to pound the country’s east.

The strike on Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region killed 52 people, Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday. The town’s Russia-installed authorities said that at least seven people had been killed and around 70 injured, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

The strike came after Washington supplied Ukraine with advanced HIMARS mobile artillery systems which Kyiv says its forces are using with growing efficiency.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield accounts.

6:15am: Russia, Ukraine seek to break impasse over grain exports in TurkeyRussia and Ukraine were due Wednesday to hold their first talks with UN and Turkish officials aimed at breaking a months-long impasse over grain exports that has seen food prices soar and millions face hunger.

The four-way meeting in Istanbul comes with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showing no sign of abating and the threat of food shortages spreading across the poorest parts of the world.

Ukraine is a vital exporter of wheat and grains such as barley and maize. It has also supplied nearly half of all the sunflower oil traded on global markets.

But exports across the Black Sea have been blocked by Russian warships and mines Kyiv has laid to avert a feared amphibious assault.

The negotiations are being complicated by growing suspicions that Russia is trying to export grain it has stolen from Ukrainian farmers in regions under its control.

US space agency data released last week showed 22 percent of Ukraine’s farmland falling under Russian control since the February 24 invasion.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tried on Tuesday to play down expectations from the Istanbul talks.

“We are working hard indeed, but there is still a way to go,” Guterres said to reporters.

2:12am: NBA star LeBron James asks how Griner ‘can feel like America has her back’NBA superstar LeBron James criticised US efforts to bring home WNBA star Brittney Griner, wondering Tuesday why she would even want to return to America after so long.

On a 30-second trailer for his YouTube talk show “The Shop: Uninterrupted”, it was noted that Griner has been imprisoned in Russia since February, days before Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

“Now, how can she feel like America has her back?” James said. “I would be feeling like, ‘Do I even want to go back to America?’”

Griner remains in a Russian prison after pleading guilty to possessing drugs, traces of which authorities found on vape equipment in her luggage five months ago.

US officials have said they consider Griner’s situation as a wrongful detention.

2:02am: Ukrainian group seeks review of Canada’s decision to return repaired Nord Stream 1 turbine to GermanyA group representing the Ukrainian diaspora said on Tuesday it was seeking a judicial review of the Canadian government’s decision to return a repaired turbine to Germany that is needed for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline.

The Canadian government on Saturday said it was issuing a “time-limited and revocable permit” to exempt the return of turbines from its sanctions on Russia as Europe seeks continued energy flows until it can end its dependency on Russian gas.

Ukraine’s energy and foreign ministries said on Sunday that Canada’s decision amounted to adjusting sanctions imposed on Moscow “to the whims of Russia” and called for it to be reversed.

1:41am: Brazil wants to buy as much diesel as it can from Russia, foreign minister saysBrazil is looking to buy as much diesel as it can from Russia and some of the deals were being closed “as recently as yesterday”, Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Franca said on Tuesday, without giving further details on the transactions.

“We have to make sure that we have enough diesel to the Brazilian agribusiness and, of course, for Brazilian drivers,” Franca told reporters during a visit to the United Nations in New York. “So that’s why we were looking for safe and very reliable suppliers of diesel – Russia is one of them.”

Brazil is looking to buy “as much as we can” from Russia, he said.

It was not immediately clear how Brazil would buy Russian diesel without coming up against Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP and AP)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

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