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Grain deal, Bakhmut and more: watch this week.


Senior Russian officials were meeting with United Nations officials in Geneva on Monday to discuss extending a deal that allows freighters to carry Ukrainian grain past a Russian blockade.

The Black Sea Grains Agreement has been a rare example of cooperation between the countries and is due to expire on Saturday. The agreement, brokered by the UN and Turkey, was renewed in November three days before its previous expiry date.

Russian leaders have indicated they are unhappy with the deal, and it is unclear whether or not Moscow will back an extension. Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told Russian state media on Sunday that “so far only the Ukrainian side has been effectively implemented,” while the Russian side of the market “continues to be blocked”.

Although the main objective of the grain agreement was to end the Russian blockade of Ukrainian exports, it also led to increased shipments of Russian grain and fertilizers. As part of the pact, the United States and the European Union ensured that banks and companies involved in the trade in Russian grain and fertilizers would be exempt from sanctions. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said last week that “Ukrainian – as well as Russian – food and fertilizer exports are critical to global food security and food prices.”

Ukraine, Turkey and the UN expressed their support for the extension of the agreement.

Here are some other developments we are watching this week:

  • Bakhmut: Russia continued to attack Ukrainian positions in the eastern town of Bakhmut. Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, whose fighters helped lead the Russian assault, said on Monday the battle was “very tough” but his forces were advancing. The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky, said Wagner’s units “came from many directions”, but insisted that Ukraine was repelling them and inflicting “significant casualties”. Although Bakhmut’s strategic value is questionable, Moscow is looking for a victory there after setbacks elsewhere in Ukraine.

  • Lukashenko in Iran: President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus was in Iran on Monday for meetings, including with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Belarusian foreign and domestic policy is largely dictated by Moscow. Russia is looking for ways to replenish its dwindling stockpile of arms and ammunition, and Iran has been a major source of drones and other weapons for Moscow.

  • Moldova: Protests against Moldova’s pro-Western government continued over the weekend. The United States and Moldova have said the recent protests are organized by pro-Moscow groups trying to incite an insurgency.

nytimes Gt

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