By BERNAT ARMANGUÉ and YURAS KARMANAU
BAKHMUT, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian and Russian forces battled fiercely for control of a key eastern city Wednesday, while fears of a global food crisis escalated as millions of tons of grain pile up inside the besieged country, unable to be exported by sea because of the war.
The urban battle for Sievierodonetsk testified to the painstaking, inch-by-inch campaign by Moscow’s troops to seize the eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas.
More than three months into the grinding war, Russia’s continuing encroachment could open up the possibility of a negotiated settlement between the two nations, analysts said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “has the option of declaring his objectives met at more or less any time in order to consolidate Russia’s territorial gains,” said Keir Giles, a Russia expert at the London think tank Chatham House. At that point, Giles said, Western leaders may “pressure Ukraine to accept their losses in order to bring an end to the fighting.”
The consequences of the war have been felt in many countries, where it is driving up the price of food since critical shipments of Ukrainian grain are bottled up inside the country.
Ukraine, long known as the “bread basket of Europe,” is one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but much of that flow has been halted by the war and a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. An estimated 22 million tons of grain remains in Ukraine.
Russia has expressed support for the creation of a safe corridor at sea that would allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments. Under the proposal, Ukraine would have to remove its mines from the waters near the Black Sea port of Odesa, and Russia would be allowed to check incoming vessels for weapons.
Ukraine, though, has expressed fear that clearing the mines could enable Russia to attack the coast. Ukrainian officials have said that the Kremlin’s repeated assurances that it would not take advantage of the situation cannot be trusted.
European Council President Charles Michel on Wednesday accused the Kremlin of “weaponizing food supplies and surrounding their actions with a web of lies, Soviet-style.”
While Russia, which is also a major supplier of grain to the rest of the world, has blamed the looming food crisis on Western sanctions against Moscow, the European Union heatedly denied that and said the blame rests with Russia itself for waging war against Ukraine.
“These are Russian …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – News