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Fears of global food crisis grow

by The Associated Press | June 9, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
A man looks at what is left of his home and car after attacks in Yasnohorodka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

BAKHMUT, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukrainian and Russian forces battled fiercely for control of a key eastern city Wednesday, while fears of a global food crisis escalated as millions of tons of grain pile up inside the besieged country, unable to be exported by sea because of the war.

The urban battle for Sievierodonetsk testified to the painstaking, inch-by-inch campaign by Moscow's troops to seize the eastern industrial heartland known as the Donbas.

More than three months into the grinding war, Russia's continuing encroachment could open up the possibility of a negotiated settlement between the two nations, analysts said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin "has the option of declaring his objectives met at more or less any time in order to consolidate Russia's territorial gains," said Keir Giles, a Russia expert at the London think tank Chatham House. At that point, Giles said, Western leaders may "pressure Ukraine to accept their losses in order to bring an end to the fighting."

The consequences of the war have been felt in many countries, where it is driving up the price of food since critical shipments of Ukrainian grain are bottled up inside the country.

Ukraine, long known as the "bread basket of Europe," is one of the world's biggest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but much of that flow has been halted by the war and a Russian blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea coast. An estimated 22 million tons of grain remains in Ukraine.

Russia has expressed support for the creation of a safe corridor at sea that would allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments. Under the proposal, Ukraine would have to remove its mines from the waters near the Black Sea port of Odesa, and Russia would be allowed to check incoming vessels for weapons.

Ukraine, though, has expressed fear that clearing the mines could enable Russia to attack the coast. Ukrainian officials have said that the Kremlin's repeated assurances that it would not take advantage of the situation cannot be trusted.

European Council President Charles Michel on Wednesday accused the Kremlin of "weaponizing food supplies and surrounding their actions with a web of lies, Soviet-style."

While Russia, which is also a major supplier of grain to the rest of the world, has blamed the looming food crisis on Western sanctions against Moscow, the European Union heatedly denied that and said the blame rests with Russia itself for waging war against Ukraine.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting raged in and around Sievierodonetsk, one of the last cities yet to be taken by the Russians in Luhansk, one of the two provinces that make up the Donbas. Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai acknowledged the difficulties, saying, "Maybe we will have to retreat, but right now battles are ongoing in the city."

Meanwhile, to the north, Russian shelling of the Kharkiv region killed five people and wounded 12 over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian authorities said.

The Russian military said it used high-precision missiles to hit an armor repair plant near Kharkiv. There was no confirmation from Ukraine of such a plant being hit.

Turkey has sought to play a role in negotiating an end to the war and in brokering the resumption of grain shipments. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. But Ukraine was not invited to the talks.

photo Ukrainian servicemen take a break after digging trenches near the frontline in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
photo Oleg flies a drone while testing it on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. Drones are been extensively used by Russian and Ukrainian troops on the war. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
photo Ukrainian servicemen dig trenches near the frontline in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
photo Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) Ruslan Stefanchuk, center, delivers a speech at the European Parliament, Wednesday, June 8, 2022 in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
photo Ammunition is stored in a Ukrainian trench near the frontline in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
photo Drawings made by Ukrainian children decorate a sleeping area in a Ukrainian trench near the front lines in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
photo Ukrainian servicemen dig trenches near the frontline in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
photo Puff pastry cakes, center, named after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a city cafe in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. One of Kyiv's top bakeries came up with the idea to thank Johnson for the UK military donations to Ukraine to help the country fight against Russian invaders. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
photo A Ukrainian serviceman digs trenches near the frontline in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

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