Ukraine: Extended grain settlement, a damaged Patriot battery

Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday extended their vital grain deal to the world’s diets as war continues, with Washington confirming that a state-of-the-art Patriot air defense battery had been damaged.

After mediation by Turkey and the United Nations, the agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, concluded in Istanbul in July 2022 and which expires on Thursday evening, has been extended “by two months”, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced.

This agreement has made it possible to export more than 30 million tons of Ukrainian grain in the last ten months and overcome the world food crisis caused by the war.

“This expansion is good news for the world,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

On the ground, the United States confirmed that a Patriot system was damaged by an unknown projectile, but remained operational.

Ukrainian soldiers carry the coffin of a comrade killed in action in Lviv on May 16, 2023 (AFP – YURIY DYACHYSHYN)

On Tuesday, the Russian military claimed to have destroyed a Patriot battery with a “high-precision strike” carried out by a “hypersonic missile + Kinjal +”.

Washington announced the delivery of Patriot missiles in late 2022 to Kiev, which has been seeking them for a long time.

The Patriots are capable of shooting down cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and aircraft at altitudes much higher than the defense systems provided up to that point. At least two such systems have been deployed in Ukraine.

– Chinese envoy –

On the diplomatic front, Chinese envoy Li Hui met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba ahead of a “possible” meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky, a senior Ukrainian official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The exchange would be the first between Mr Zelensky, who encourages Beijing to pressure Vladimir Putin, and a senior Chinese official.

A Chinese delegation was received at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in Kiev on May 16, 2023 (Ukrainian Foreign Ministry press-service/AFP - Handout)
A Chinese delegation was received at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in Kiev on May 16, 2023 (Ukrainian Foreign Ministry press-service/AFP – Handout)

His ministry said, during his meeting with Li Hui, Mr Kouleba “explained to the Chinese Special Representative the principles of restoring a lasting and just peace based on respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“He insisted that Ukraine not accept any proposal that would involve the loss of its territories or a cooling of the conflict”, he said, while pushing Kiev to accept a settlement in the long run. with Moscow.

Li Hui’s journey will also take him to Poland, France, Germany and Russia.

China, a close ally of Moscow, has never publicly condemned the Russian aggression. And during a visit to Moscow in March, President Xi Jinping extended strong symbolic support to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

– “Political settlement” –

In February, Beijing offered a 12-point plan to end the war, which was viewed with suspicion by Western countries. Li Hui, the special representative for Eurasian affairs and former Chinese ambassador to Moscow, is expected to discuss a “political solution” to the conflict during her visit, according to Beijing.

A Ukrainian tank near Bakhmut, April 29, 2023 (AFP/Archive - Dimitar Dilkoff)
A Ukrainian tank near Bakhmut, April 29, 2023 (AFP/Archive – Dimitar Dilkoff)

Ukraine’s top diplomat praised China’s “important” role in peace efforts, as Kiev promotes its own formula for resolving the conflict involving the return of all Russian-occupied territories, including Crimea, in 2014.

Mr. Lee’s visit to Kiev comes shortly after Mr. Zelensky’s European tour, during which he was promised deliveries of new weapons needed to launch a major counter-offensive.

They were heard at many points – anti-aircraft missiles, drones, armored vehicles … – and moved towards the delivery of Western fighters, which Europeans are reluctant to provide.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday “to see that the flow of arms and ammunition to Ukraine is increasing and the level of supplies of tactical and technical weapons is also increasing”.

On the battlefield, Ukraine claimed to have continued to advance against the Russians near Bakhmut, advancing 500 meters in some areas during the day. On Tuesday it claimed to have captured more than 20 square kilometers of territory in the east of the country near the devastated city that was the epicenter of the fighting.

If the Russians are in difficulty on the banks of Bakhmat, they continue their slow advance into the city itself, which they control over 90% of.

But this local Ukrainian offensive does not appear to be the major offensive Kiev has promised for months, with Volodymyr Zelensky recently estimating that his forces “need more time”.

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