Russia accuses US of playing direct role in war on Ukraine, grain ship is on track
By Can Sezer and Orhan Coskun
ISTANBUL/LONDON (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday accused the United States of being directly involved in the war against Ukraine, while the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since the invasion of Moscow continued his way to Lebanon without problem.
Russia said it was responding to comments by Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence,
on how Kyiv used long-range US-provided HIMAR rocket launch systems based on what he called excellent satellite imagery and real-time information.
Skibitsky told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper that there had been consultations between US and Ukrainian intelligence officials before the strikes and that Washington had an effective veto over the targets, although he said the US officials did not provide direct information on targeting.
The Russian Defense Ministry, led by a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, said the interview showed Washington was directly involved despite repeated claims that it was limiting its role in the conflict to arms supplies because he did not want a direct confrontation with Moscow.
“All of this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“It is the Biden administration that is directly responsible for all Kyiv-sanctioned rocket attacks against residential areas and civilian infrastructure in populated areas of Donbas and other regions, which have resulted in mass civilian deaths. “, said the Ministry of Defense.
There was no immediate reaction to the allegations from the White House Defense Department or the Pentagon.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of carrying out devastating missile attacks against civilian targets almost daily. Both sides deny deliberately targeting civilians.
The supply of sophisticated long-range weapon systems from Western countries to Ukraine is seen as vital if Kyiv forces are to turn the tide of the war, in which Russia relies heavily on long-range bombing from urban areas.
Russia’s verbal attack on Washington came after Turkey said the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain since the Russian invasion blocked exports more than five months ago was about to arrive in safely in Istanbul on Tuesday evening.
The ship’s departure Monday from the Ukrainian port of Odessa for Lebanon via Turkey under a safe passage agreement has raised hopes of further such departures that could help ease a raging global food crisis. boom.
Turkey expects around one grain ship to leave Ukrainian ports every day as long as the safe passage agreement is respected, a senior Turkish official, who asked to remain anonymous, said on Tuesday.
The UN has warned of the risk of multiple famines this year due to the war in Ukraine.
Monday’s sailing was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain and fertilizer export deal between Russia and Ukraine last month – a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a dispute that has become a long war of attrition since Russian troops crossed the border on February 24.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy, in his late-night address Monday evening, called the ship’s departure a “first positive signal”, but warned it was too early to draw conclusions or predict how things would unfold.
“We cannot have any illusions that Russia will simply refrain from trying to disrupt Ukrainian exports,” Zelenskiy said.
Ozcan Altunbudak, Turkey’s representative to a coordination center set up to oversee the restart of Ukrainian grain exports, said on Tuesday the ship, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, was about to drop anchor. in Istanbul on Tuesday evening.
The only problem so far was a slight delay caused by bad weather, he said. The vessel, which is carrying 26,527 tonnes of maize, was expected to arrive in Istanbul around midnight local time.
It will then be inspected by Russian, Turkish, Ukrainian and UN officials as part of the safe passage agreement before continuing its journey to the Lebanese port of Tripoli, its intended final destination.
There are, however, other hurdles to overcome before millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain can leave, including mine clearance and the creation of a framework for ships to safely enter the conflict zone and recover the cargoes.
Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tonnes of grain stored in silos and 40 million tonnes of the current harvest, initially from Odessa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk, to help clean the silos for the new crop.
Russia called Razoni’s departure “very positive news”. He denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have slowed his exports.
Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of laying mines which now float around the Black Sea and pose a hazard to shipping.
Also on Tuesday, Russia publicly expressed solidarity in Taiwan with China, with which it has a close partnership, ahead of a possible visit there by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the possible visit a “provocation” and said Moscow supports Beijing’s one-China principle and opposes Taiwan independence “under any form.”
(Reporting by Reuters offices; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Angus MacSwan)