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RUSSIA, UKRAINE SIGN GRAIN DEAL

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Ukraine and Russia on Friday signed a landmark deal aimed at relieving a global food crisis caused by blocked Black Sea grain deliveries, ending months of negotiations and sending wheat prices tumbling to levels last seen before Moscow’s invasion.

The first major deal between the warring parties since the February invasion of Ukraine should help ease the “acute hunger” that the United Nations says faces an additional 47 million people because of the war.

The hostility between Moscow and Kyiv spilled over into the signing ceremony, delayed briefly by disputes about the display of flags around the table and Ukraine’s refusal to put its name on the same document as the Russians.

The two sides eventually inked separate but identical agreements in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Istanbul’s lavish Dolmabahce Palace.

“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea – a beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief,” Guterres said moments before the signing.

Erdogan, a key player in the negotiations, who has good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv, said the deal would “hopefully revive the path to peace.”

But Ukraine entered the ceremony by bluntly warning that it would conduct “an immediate military response” should Russia violate the agreement and attack its ships or stage an incursion around its ports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later said the responsibility for enforcing the deal would fall to the UN, which along with Turkey is a co-guarantor of the agreement.

– 20 million tonnes of wheat –

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