Lviv, Ukraine (AFP) – The Turkish president and the United Nations chief met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday in a high-risk attempt to calm the nearly six-month-old war, boost much-needed grain exports and secure Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. . . But little progress has been reported.
The rally, which was held far from the front lines in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, near the Polish border, was the first visit to Ukraine by Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan since the outbreak of the war, and the second by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. .
Erdogan has positioned himself as a mediator in efforts to stop the fighting. While Turkey is a member of NATO — which supports Ukraine in the war — its rickety economy depends on Russia for trade, and it has tried to steer a middle course between the fighters.
At the meetings, Turkey agreed to help rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges, and Zelensky asked Guterres to request UN access to Ukrainian citizens deported to Russia, according to the Ukrainian president’s website. Zelensky also requested UN assistance in releasing captured Ukrainian soldiers and paramedics.
Meanwhile, at least 17 people were killed and 42 injured on the battlefield in violent Russian missile strikes on Ukraine’s Kharkiv region on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Ukrainian authorities said.
The Russian military claimed to have struck a foreign mercenary base in Kharkiv, killing 90. There was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian side.
Rising international tensions, Russia has deployed warplanes carrying the latest hypersonic missiles in the country, an area surrounded by two NATO countries, Lithuania and Poland.
The three leaders’ agenda included the Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine. Moscow and Kiev accused each other of bombing the complex, and the fighting raised fears of a nuclear disaster.
Zelensky demanded that Russian forces leave the factory and allow a team from the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency to enter.
Zelensky and the United Nations chief on Thursday agreed on arrangements for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s mission at the station, according to the president’s website. But it was not immediately clear whether the Kremlin would agree to the proposed terms. Regarding the troop withdrawal, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said that would make the plant “vulnerable”.
Concerns about the plant escalated Thursday when Russian and Ukrainian authorities accused each other of plotting to attack the site and then blame the other side.
Earlier this month, Erdogan met in Russia with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the fight. Last month, Turkey and the United Nations helped broker deals that paved the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of corn and other grains stuck in its Black Sea ports since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. The agreements also sought to remove barriers to Russia’s exports. Food and fertilizers for global markets.
The war greatly exacerbated the global food crisis because Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of grain. Developing countries have been particularly hard hit by shortages and rising prices, and the United Nations has declared several African nations at risk of starvation.
But even with this deal, few Ukrainian grain exports succeeded. Turkey said more than 622,000 tons of grain had been shipped from Ukrainian ports since the deal was reached.
At a press conference Thursday in Lviv, Guterres praised the success of the grain export agreements but added: “There is a long way to go before this is translated into the daily lives of people in their local bakeries and in their markets.”
Discussions about a comprehensive end to the war that has killed countless thousands and forced more than 10 million Ukrainians to flee their homes were not expected to yield anything substantial.
In March, Turkey hosted talks in Istanbul between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, but efforts to end hostilities were unsuccessful, with both sides blaming each other.
Erdogan has engaged in a delicate balancing act, maintaining good relations with both Russia and Ukraine. Turkey supplied Ukraine with drones that played an important role in the fighting, but refrained from joining Western sanctions against Russia because of the war.
Turkey is facing a major economic crisis, with official inflation close to 80%, and is increasingly dependent on Russia for trade and tourism. Russian gas covers 45% of Turkey’s energy needs, and the Russian Atomic Agency is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.
Sinan Ulgen of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank described Turkey’s diplomatic policy as “pro-Ukrainian without being anti-Russian.”
“Turkey thought it did not have the luxury to completely isolate Russia,” Ulgen said.
Susan Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Robert Badendyk contributed from Istanbul.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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