‘Critical step’ Ukraine and Russia all set to seal grain deal as heavy shelling continues

Ukraine: Map shows number of fires near border

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Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday an agreement would be signed next week. Ankara will ensure the safety of shipments in transit and the parties will jointly check grain cargoes in ports, he added.

But UN chief Antonio Guterres said more work was needed before a deal was finalised.

Mr Guterres told reporters in New York: “We have seen a critical step forward.

“We still need a lot of goodwill and commitments by all parties.”

Sustained Russian shelling across Donetsk province continued on Wednesday.

A deal is seen as vital for food security, notably among developing nations, and for stabilising markets.

But Guterres warned there was still “a long way to go” before there would be peace talks to end the war.

Moscow aims to capture the province to complete its seizure of the industrialised Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Russian state news agency TASS quoted a separatist official as saying Russian and proxy forces had now entered the town of Siversk in Donetsk and could take it in a couple of days.

A deal is seen as vital for food security, notably among developing nations, and for stabilising markets.

But Guterres warned there was still “a long way to go” before there would be peace talks to end the war.

Moscow aims to capture the province to complete its seizure of the industrialised Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Russian state news agency TASS quoted a separatist official as saying Russian and proxy forces had now entered the town of Siversk in Donetsk and could take it in a couple of days.

Ukraine’s armed forces said that Siversk had been fired on by artillery but Russian forces had not conducted a ground assault.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appeared optimistic in late-night comments: “The Ukrainian delegation has reported to me that there is progress.

“In the coming days we will agree on the details with the UN secretary general.”

Turkey and Ukraine said a joint coordination centre with Russia and the United Nations would be set up.

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Zelenskiy’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said on Twitter: “Its task will be to carry out general monitoring and coordination of safe navigation in the Black Sea.”

Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately offer comment.

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