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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy says Russia slowing grain exports

October 21, 2022

The Ukrainian president has blamed Russia for a delay in shipping grain. Kyiv has also claimed Russian forces have mined a dam at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant in the Kherson region. DW has the latest.

 A crew member prepares a grain analysis for a control made by members of the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) onboard the Barbados-flagged ship 'Nord Vind' coming from Ukraine loaded with grain and anchored in Istanbul, on October 11, 2022.
Ukraine has resumed exporting grain under the deal brokered by the UNImage: Yasin Akgul/AFP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of deliberately delaying the passage of ships carrying Ukrainian grain under a UN-brokered-deal, and said 150 vessels were waiting to be loaded.

"This is an artificial queue. It only arose because Russia is deliberately delaying the passage of the ships," he said in his Friday video address.

Zelenskyy said the delay meant that 3 million metric tons (3.3 million US tons) were still blocked, noting that the amount was enough to feed 10 million people.

Kyiv has exported almost 11 million tons of grains and other foods since July, when the United Nations signed the agreement with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey.

The deal is to expire in November. Russia's UN ambassador in Geneva has said negotiations on extending the agreement are not progressing well because Moscow's concerns were not being taken into proper account.

Russia has previously criticized the deal, complaining that its own exports had suffered. It has also claimed, without evidence, that most of the grain was being delivered to Europe and not to the poor countries where it was most needed. 

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on October 21.

Russia has mined hydropower plant, Ukraine says

Ukraine has accused Russia of planning to destroy a hydropower plant in the eastern Kherson region — which Moscow has illegally annexed and subjected to martial law.

"Russia is preparing a manmade catastrophe," Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Thursday.

Podolyak said Russia was mining the dam and transformers at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant to flood the lower Dnieper River, where Russian troops face a Ukrainian offensive.

Earlier on Thursday, Vladimir Leontyev, a Kremlin-installed regional official, said Ukrainian forces had launched five missile strikes against the Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power station. He told Russian TV that if the facility was destroyed, a crucial canal providing water to annexed Crimea would be severed.

Zelenskyy said Russia had plans to blow up the dam and power station in what he deemed a terrorist act to unleash 18 million cubic meters and flood Kherson and dozens of areas that are home to hundreds of thousands of people.

The Ukrainian president told European leaders that Moscow would then blame Kyiv. Zelenskyy, in his daily address, said blowing up the dam would be "a catastrophe on a grand scale."

Zelenskyy accuses Russia of mining power plant

Russia making Kherson 'a fortress'

Russian-installed officials say they are bolstering the defenses of the southern city of Kherson as Kyiv’s troops advance nearer.

Recent weeks have seen Ukrainian troops, using Western weapons, make convincing progress along the western bank of the Dniepr River.

The Ukrainian presidency on Friday said 88 towns and villages had been recaptured in the southern Kherson region. Kyiv is targeting Russian resupply routes across the Dniepr as it edges closer to a full assault on Moscow’s forces in the occupied city.

"The city of Kherson, like a fortress, is preparing for its defence," said pro-Russian official Kirill Stremousov.

Pro-Russian authorities in the city have ordered residents to leave. On Friday, they claimed Ukrainian forces had killed four people when they shelled a bridge. Ukraine denied that they had killed any civilians.

The offensive threatens to deprive Moscow of the only provincial capital it had occupied since the start of the offensive in February. Kherson also represents a strategic prize, serving as Russia’s bridgehead for attacks on territory further west.

Ukraine military urges Belarusians to stay out of war

The Ukrainian military has issued a direct appeal to the population of Belarus, urging them not to join the "dirty war" against Ukraine.

"We call on all citizens of Belarus not to obey the orders of your leadership to enter the war against Ukraine," a statement read.

With Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko seeking to embroil the Belarusian people in the war, the Ukrainian military urged citizens to make the "right choice."

However, the statement warned that, if Belarus does directly participate in the war: "We will respond."

Russian troops begin Belarus deployment

UK doubts substantial Russia deployment to Belarus

The British Defense Ministry said in its morning intelligence briefing that it believes it is unlikely that Russia has actually deployed a significant number of extra troops into Belarus, amid further news of a joint deployment of Moscow and Minsk's forces.

The assessment from London notes recent announcements are likely an attempt to demonstrate Russian-Belarusian solidarity and to convince Ukraine to divert forces to guard the northern border.

Belarusian authorities have released a video that claims to show Russian troops arriving in Belarus as strongman Alexander Lukashenko has said some 70,000 Belarusian troops and up to 15,000 Russians are to form a new Russian-Belarusian Group of Forces.

The UK said Russia was unlikely to be able to generate combat-ready formations of the claimed size because its forces are committed in Ukraine.

In addition, it said it was highly likely the Belarusian military had minimal capability to undertake such complex operations.

EU promises €1.5bn to Ukraine

The European Union is framing plans to give some €1.5 billion ($1.46 billion) in economic aid to Kyiv next year.

Speaking after an EU leaders' summit, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Ukraine had requested "a stable, reliable and predictable flow" of macroeconomic support from international donors.

On the sidelines of the same summit, French President Emmanuel Macron said France would invite the leader of Moldova to Paris in November. Macron said he wanted to express France's solidarity for the country in light of Russia's invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine.

Earlier in the war, there were fears that the war could spill over into Moldova, where Russian troops are based in the breakaway Trans-Dniester region.

Russia, US defense chiefs speak

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has spoken to his US counterpart Lloyd Austin, in rare talks between Moscow and Washington since Russia invaded Ukraine.

"Topical issues of international security, including the situation in Ukraine, were discussed," the Russian defense ministry said in a statement on social media. It did not provide further details.

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks to DW

Blasts reported in Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia

A string of explosions has shaken the Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia, following an escalation of strikes by Russia in recent weeks

Authorities said missiles hit an industrial facility in Kharkiv, with the city's mayor, Ihor Terekhov, adding that rescuers had yet to see if there were casualties and assess the damage.

The regional governor of Kharkiv, Oleh Sinegubov, said five people had been wounded.

There were also reports of blasts in Zaporizhzhia, although no further details were immediately available. Zaporizhzhia is home to Europe's largest nuclear plant of the same name.

Ukraine's foreign minister requests Israeli defense systems

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday and discussed Kyiv's request for air and missile defense systems and technology.

"I informed him [about the] unspeakable suffering, loss of life, and destruction caused by Russian missiles and Iranian-made drones," Kuleba said on Twitter. 

The Israeli prime minister's office said in a statement that Lapid had reiterated the country's support for Ukraine and expressed his "deep concern" about the military ties between Iran and Russia.

While Israel has denounced Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it has said it would not supply weapons to Kyiv and has limited its assistance to humanitarian relief. Israel has also said it would not provide its Iron Dome missile defense technology to Ukraine. 

Ukraine has accused Moscow of using four Iranian-made drones to bomb Kyiv on Monday. The country has also said that its air defenses have shot down 223 Iranian drones since mid-September.

Russia claims it has no knowledge of its troops using Iranian drones in Ukraine, and Tehran has called the accusations that it is providing Moscow with weapons "baseless." 

Iranian trainers in Crimea backing Russian drone strikes, US says

The United States on Thursday said Iranian military trainers had been sent to Crimea to help Russian troops using Iranian-made drones to attack Ukrainian targets.

"We can confirm that Russian military personnel based in Crimea have been piloting Iranian UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and using them to conduct kinetic strikes across Ukraine, including in strikes against Kyiv in recent days," US State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a daily press briefing.

"We assess that ... Iranian military personnel were on the ground in Crimea and assisted Russia in these operations," Price said. 

"We do have credible information," he said, but did not provide evidence.

Crimea was unilaterally annexed from Ukraine by Russia in contravention of international law in 2014.

The statement comes as Washington seeks to increase international pressure on Tehran to withdraw from helping Moscow as it bombards soft civilian targets in Ukraine with the help of Iran-made drones.

Scholz policy speech dominated by Ukraine

Latvia's PM: EU needs to hold Moscow accountable

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said ahead of the second day of an EU summit that the EU needs to start working to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed during its war against Ukraine. 

"Russia's war is becoming ever more brutal, now blatantly aimed not only at the Ukrainian military but at Ukrainian citizens and their civilian infrastructure," Karins said while on his way to a meeting of EU leaders.

He added the EU had "to figure out how to properly hold Russia also legally accountable for the atrocities that they are committing in Ukraine today." He added that sanctions against Belarus should also be increased.

More from DW's coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Since Moscow's mobilization drive to shore up Russian troops in Ukraine, a Russian feminist group has been helping men avoid conscription. It's become a political force to reckon with.

EU ambassadors have agreed on a new package of sanctions against Iranian officials in response to recent drone strikes in Ukraine. Tehran has denied supplying Russian forces with arms.

rc,dvv/ar,sms (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)