UN begins talks with Russia on Black Sea grains deal

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Moscow announces completion of withdrawal from Kherson

Talks between a Russian delegation and senior UN officials to address Moscow’s grievances about the Black Sea grains export initiative began in Geneva on Friday, a UN spokesperson said.

The negotiations come just eight days before the deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July is due to be renewed. The accord has helped stave off a global food crisis by allowing the export of food and fertilizers from several of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Moscow has indicated that it is prepared to quit the deal, which could expire on Nov. 19, if progress is not made on its concerns. Russia suspended its participation in late October but rejoined after four days.

Russia announced the completion of its withdrawal from the strategic city of Kherson in southern Ukraine on Friday and a regional official said Ukrainian partisans had raised a flag there, but that many Russian troops had been unable to leave.

This news agency could not immediately verify the full extent of Ukraine’s advance, the status of Russia’s retreat or the fate of any Russian soldiers who may have been left behind as Moscow rushed to pull its troops across the wide Dnipro River.

Serhiy Khlan, a member of Ukraine’s regional council for Kherson, said a large number of Russian soldiers had drowned trying to escape Kherson, while others had changed into civilian clothes and were trying to hide.

The city was almost under the control of Ukrainian forces, he said. He advised residents not to leave their homes while searches for remaining Russian troops took place.

Earlier, the Russian defense ministry said it had finished pulling its troops from the western bank of the Dnipro river, where Kherson lies, just two days after Moscow announced the retreat.

“Not a single unit of military equipment or weapons have been left on the right (western) bank. All Russian servicemen crossed to the left bank,” it added, saying that Russia had not suffered any loss of personnel or equipment during the withdrawal.

Pro-Russian war bloggers had reported late on Thursday that Russian forces crossing the river were coming under heavy fire from Ukrainian forces. The Russian ministry said Ukrainian forces had struck Dnipro River crossings five times overnight with US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov had told Reuters on Thursday it would take at least a week for Russia to pull out of Kherson. He estimated Russia still had 40,000 troops in the region, and said intelligence showed its forces remained in and around the city.

 

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