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Ukraine updates: Grain deal extended for another two months

Published May 17, 2023last updated May 17, 2023

Ukrainian and Russian officials have agreed to a two-month extension of the grain deal which was about to expire. Meanwhile, China warns embassies against any display of "propaganda." DW has the latest.

Workers load grain at a port in Izmail, Ukraine
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed the Turkish-brokered agreementImage: Andrew Kravchenko/AP/picture alliance

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Wednesday that a two-month extension of the UN-back grain deal, allowing shipments of grain from Ukraine to the global market, had been reached.

"With the efforts of our country, the support of our Russian friends, the contribution of our Ukrainian friends, it was decided to prolong the Black Sea grain deal for two more months," Erdogan said in televised remarks.

Ukrainian and Russian officials confirmed the extension of the deal to allow exports from the Black Sea port despite the ongoing war.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olexandr Kubrakov confirmed the grain corridor would remain open until at least July 18. 

"We welcome the extension of the work of the initiative, but we emphasize that it must work effectively," Kubrakov wrote on Facebook.

"We confirm the announcement by the Turkish President that the Black Sea Initiative will be extended by two months," said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the Turkish-brokered agreement.

"These agreements matter for global food security; Ukrainian and Russian products feed the world," Guterres said.

The agreement, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, was struck in July last year and was renewed in March this year for 60 days.

The deal was again up for renewal on May 18 and has allowed some 30.3 million tons of grains to depart Ukraine's ports.

That includes some 625,000 tons of food for aid operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen.

Ukraine and Russia are both major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other affordable food products for the Asian and African countries.

The two countries at war signed the agreement with the UN and Turkey last year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine put a pause on shipments in the months following February 2022.

The pause pushed food prices to record highs last year, contributing to a global food crisis. 

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Wednesday, May 17:

Germany not part of fighter plane coalition 

Germany says it cannot join an international coalition to provide Ukraine with air combat capabilities.

"We cannot play an active role in such an alliance, in such a coalition, because we have neither the training capacities, the competencies or the planes," German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said after meeting his British counterpart in Berlin.

British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said the UK won't donate fighter aircraft, but "what we can, obviously contribute, is training and support, again, within limits because we don't have F16 pilots."

During a summit of the Council of Europe, Britain said it was working with the Netherlands to build an "international coalition" to provide fighter jet support for Ukraine. 

What difference would fighter jets make for Ukraine?

New NATO member Finland says embassy bank accounts suspended in Russia

The bank accounts of Finland's embassy and consulate in Russia have been frozen, the Finnish Foreign Ministry said.

The bank accounts were frozen on April 27 and Moscow has not provided an explanation for it, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters. 

Haavisto said Finland sent Russian authorities a notice on May 4 to ensure the mission can function in Russia but was yet to hear from officials there.

Finland joined NATO in April, doubling the alliance's land border with Russia. 

Kyiv says 200,000 Russian casualties in war

The Ukrainian General Staff said in a report that Russia has lost more than 200,000 soldiers as it carried out its campaign of aggression in the country.

Around 610 Russian fighters had died in the last 24 hours, it added.

The claims could not be independently verified and experts have cautioned against inflated numbers of casualties claimed by both militaries.

Europe opens 'Register of Damage' to document Russian crimes

European leaders approved a "Register of Damage" to document the damages inflicted by Russian forces in Ukraine.

The register was the "first, necessary, urgent step" to hold Moscow liable for compensation for damages, Marija Pejcinovic Buric, the head of the Council of Europe, said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the register would play "a central role...to punish the war crimes of the Russian occupiers and to demand accountability for the enormous damage that Russia inflicts on Ukraine day after day."

The Council of Europe was established in 1949 to uphold human rights across wider Europe and has 46 members, including the UK, Ukraine and Turkey.

Council of Europe summit focuses on Ukraine

Kyiv says US Patriot systems working 'all fine' after Russia claims damage

Ukraine said a US-supplied Patriot air defense system was working "all fine" and had not been damaged out of use during attacks on Tuesday.

"The Patriot is in service," Air Force spokesman Yury Ignat told reporters. He declined to comment on whether the surface-to-air system had been damaged.

Moscow claimed it struck the powerful weapon during aerial attacks on Tuesday.

Ukraine received the US-made missile system from the US and other countries, including Germany, in April. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry notifies embassies against 'propaganda'

China's Foreign Ministry has notified foreign embassies and international organizations not to exhibit "politicized propaganda to avoid inciting disputes between countries."

Although not openly commented on, diplomats privately say the instruction is aimed at missions that have displayed Ukrainian flags since Russia's invasion.

Asked about the notice at a briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said embassies had a duty to respect China's law and regulations. He did not elaborate.

China has claimed neutrality in the conflict in Ukraine and has not condemned Russia's invasion at the UN.

Beijing offered a peace plan to call an end to fighting earlier in February, but officials have cast doubt on the nature of the plan.

China's Xi meets Putin in Moscow

rm/rt (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)