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Russian foreign minister says blockade of Ukrainian ports lifted

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov assured this Sunday in Cairo, where he began a trip to several African countries, that the blockade on Ukrainian ports has already been lifted, after the agreement reached on Friday, and attributed the global food crisis to Western sanctions against Moscow.

“There was an initiative of the UN Secretary General that we support and the blockade imposed on Ukrainian ports was effectively lifted, while the other part of the initiative is lift the siege on Russian wheat exports,” Lavrov said at a press conference alongside his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

However, the Russian reiterated that in order to open a safe path to to leave the grains stored in the silos of Ukraine, one of the largest grain suppliers in the world, this country must first remove the mines it has implanted in its ports in response to the Russian invasion of its territory. “The Ukrainian side must remove the mines it has placed in ports and beaches. There are several ships stranded in these ports due to the danger of these mines”, declared Lavrov, noting that the pact reached on Friday in Turkey includes “removing all obstacles to the movement of Russian ships in the world”.

Lavrov did not mention the Russian attack this Saturday – after the signing of the pact, therefore – against the port of Odessa, which according to his spokesman was directed against a military infrastructure; however, the chancellor insisted on blaming Western countries for the global food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. “Sanctions against some exporting companies and banks, as well as sanctions on the movement of Russian ships in ports, led to the food crisis,” said Lavrov in what is the first stage of a trip to several countries in Africa, a continent that is being particularly affected by the aftermath of the war in Ukraine.

The Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian ports as a result of the Russian invasion in February 24 prevented the export of grain from this important supplier world, while Western sanctions on Russia have driven up the price of fertilizers and energy, which has also affected world agricultural production. “This food crisis and the pandemic are two mistakes made by the West on the food issue”, added Lavrov, who also linked the Covid crisis-19 to this situation, without giving further details.

Ukrainian troops advance on Russian-controlled region, says Zelensky

Ukrainian troops are advancing towards Kherson, according to statements by the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on the situation in that southeastern region of the country, under Russian control since the beginning of the invasion. “Occupants are trying to control the area. But the Ukrainian army is advancing step by step in the region,” the Ukrainian official said in a video message.

The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) had already warned on Saturday of the advance of Ukrainian forces on certain settlements in the region, although apparently the local authorities have asked the population not to give information about this so as not to jeopardize the military strategy. According to this institute, quoted by the portal Ukrinform, the Ukrainian resistance in the region managed to repel several Russian attacks on an undetermined number of villages in Kherson. This would indicate, according to the portal, that Ukrainian troops are launching local offensives along the front line.

The Ukrinform portal also reported, citing Ukrainian sources, that Russian troops are trying to recover the damaged bridges to ensure the arrival of supplies and heavy armored vehicles. The situation is precarious, as local experts refuse to participate in these works or do so only at gunpoint. The Ukrainian Army High Command said last Friday that the Russian army was using reserve units to defend occupied positions in the south and prevent counterattacks by Ukrainian troops.

The authorities Ukrainians also reported new attacks in the Mykolaiv region, in the east of the country, which would have caused two deaths and five injuries last night, according to Ukrinform. Ukrainian military sources also say that combat attempts continue in the Sumy region, in the north of the country, where there were a dozen attacks throughout Saturday and until this morning. In Donetsk, in the east of the country, two schools were destroyed by Russian artillery fire, while a kindergarten was seriously damaged, according to regional authorities.

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