The deal between Moscow and Kyiv to unblock Ukrainian grain exports could provide a path to a possible ceasefire in the five-month conflict, said former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The first grain-carrying ship to leave Ukrainian wartime ports anchored safely off the coast of Turkey on Tuesday and is due to be inspected on Wednesday.
“The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schröder told Stern and broadcaster RTL/ntv on Wednesday. He met Putin in Moscow last week.
“One of the first successes is the grain deal, maybe that can slowly be expanded into a ceasefire,” he said.
Schröder, Chancellor from 1998 to 2005, has criticized the war in Ukraine but has refused to condemn Putin.
Meanwhile, Russia accuses the US of being directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine and not just supplying Kyiv with weapons.
The Russian defense ministry, which is headed by a Putin ally, said comments made by Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, to the British newspaper Telegraph showed Washington was involved in the conflict.
Skibitsky told the newspaper that there had been consultations between US and Ukrainian intelligence officials before the attacks and that Washington has an effective veto over intended targets, but that US officials did not provide direct information about the targeting.
“All of this provides indisputable evidence that contrary to claims by the White House and the Pentagon, Washington is directly implicated in the conflict in Ukraine,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It is the Biden government that is directly responsible for all of the Kyiv-authorized rocket attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in populated areas of the Donbass and other regions that have resulted in mass civilian deaths.”
There was no immediate response from the White House or the Pentagon to the department’s claims.
However, the Pentagon denied Moscow’s claims that Russia had destroyed six US-made HIMARS missile systems since the start of the Ukraine war. Russia regularly claims to have hit HIMARS, but has yet to provide evidence.
Ukraine’s General Staff on Wednesday cataloged ongoing heavy Russian shelling of Kharkiv and other towns and villages in its vicinity, as well as air and missile attacks on civilian objects. Moscow denies targeting civilians.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that despite arms shipments from the West, his country’s armed forces have yet to overcome Russia’s advantages in heavy weapons and manpower.
“It’s felt very strongly in combat, especially in Donbass. … It’s just hell there. Words can’t describe it.”
Reuters was unable to verify battlefield reports.
German Schroeder said the future of Donbass is complicated. The traditional industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war.
“A solution has to be found along the lines of the Swiss canton model,” he said, adding that it remains to be seen whether a ceasefire would see Putin return to a pre-war “line of contact.”
Switzerland has 26 semi-autonomous cantons or provinces.
Solutions to crucial problems like Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, could be found over time, “maybe not over 99 years like Hong Kong, but in the next generation,” he said.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24 in what it calls a “military special operation.”
Kyiv and the West have condemned it as an unprovoked war of aggression.
At a UN conference on Tuesday, Igor Vishnevetsky, deputy director of the Russian foreign ministry’s non-proliferation and arms control department, dismissed allegations of “unprovoked aggression.”
He added that Moscow is convinced that nuclear war “must never be fought”.
Russian diplomat Alexander Trofimov told the United Nations that Moscow will only use nuclear weapons in response to weapons of mass destruction or a conventional arms attack that threatens the very existence of the Russian state.
“Neither of these two hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine,” said Trofimov, a senior diplomat in the Russian foreign ministry’s department for non-proliferation and arms control.
Meanwhile, a July 22 UN-brokered deal to unblock Ukraine’s grain exports had its first success when the first loaded ship since the Russian invasion safely anchored off Turkey’s coast.
The vessel, the Sierra Leonean-flagged Razoni, was at the entrance to the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to world markets, around 18:00 GMT on Tuesday, about 36 hours after leaving Ukraine’s port of Odessa.
The ship, loaded with 26,527 tons of corn, is scheduled to be inspected in Turkey on Wednesday.
UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York that about 27 ships are ready to depart from the three Ukrainian ports covered by the export deal.
Exports from one of the world’s top grain producers are set to help ease a global food crisis.
Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tons of grain stored in silos and 40 million tons from the now-undergoing harvest, initially from Odessa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk.
Russia has described Razoni’s departure as “very positive” news. It has denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have slowed its exports.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/former-german-chancellor-and-friend-of-putin-gerhard-schroeder-says-ukraine-grain-deal-may-pave-way-for-ceasefire-41886643.html Former German Chancellor and Putin’s friend Gerhard Schröder says the grain deal with Ukraine could pave the way for a ceasefire