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Russia-Ukraine war: Turkey seeks 25 percent discount from Kyiv over grain deal

Grain would be transferred from the port of Odessa to Istanbul in a joint deal between Ankara, Kyiv and Moscow
Prior to Russia’s invasion in February, Ukraine was a major exporter of wheat and sunflower oil
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey is seeking a 25 percent discount on Ukrainian grain that would be transferred from the port of Odessa to Istanbul in a joint deal between Ankara, Kyiv and Moscow, senior Turkish officials said this week. 

Vahit Kirisci, the Turkish agriculture minister, told journalists over the weekend that Ukraine had continued to voice its concerns over the demining of the port - in order to transfer around 25 million tonnes of grain - due to possible Russian naval attacks afterwards. 

“However Ukraine agreed to give a 25 percent discount on the grain to us if the deal goes forwards,” said Kirisci. 

The Turkish military has offered to remove the naval mines planted by Ukraine, as well as guard the grain ships off Odessa.

Anadolu, the Turkish public news agency, reported that a command centre in Istanbul would be established to oversee the grain operation. 

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However, Kyiv continues to be sceptical about Russian intentions. 

A naval blockade by Moscow has disrupted the whole grain chain of exports and threatened global food security, with the United Nations voicing alarm. 

Many Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Turkey, depend on Ukraine grain exports.

'We cannot trust Putin'

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, will visit Ankara on Wednesday to discuss the issue. 

However, Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's president, said on Monday that Kyiv had not been invited to the talks. 

“Putin says he will not use trade routes to attack Odessa,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in a tweet on Monday. 

“This is the same Putin who told German Chancellor Scholz and French President Macron he would not attack Ukraine - days before launching a full-scale invasion of our country. We cannot trust Putin, his words are empty.” 

Turkish experts believe Ankara will not be unduly troubled even if the Ukrainian grain deal falls apart. 

Ozkan Taspinar, the head of the national grain council, told Turkish media that 20 million tonne wheat crop yield is expected in Turkey, meeting overall Turkish needs. 

Delicate balance

On Friday, during a news conference marking the 100th-day since the conflict began, Ukraine's ambassador to Turkey accused Russia of "stealing" Ukrainian grain and sending it abroad.

Russia is shamelessly stealing Ukrainian grains and getting it out from the invaded Crimea," Vasyl Bodnar told reporters in the Turkish capital.

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"These grains are being shipped to foreign countries, including Turkey.

"We have made our appeal for Turkey to help us and, upon the suggestion of the Turkish side, are launching criminal cases regarding those stealing and selling the grains."

The Ukrainian embassy in Ankara later said the vessels involved in the stolen grain shipments were the Nadezhda, Finikia, Sormivskiy, Vera, and Mikhail Nenashev ships. Reuters was not able to independently verify the embassy's claims.

So far, Ankara has maintained a delicate balance between Kyiv and Moscow.

Turkey has delivered combat drones to Ukraine and has sought to act as a mediator in the conflict. 

But it has also refrained from placing sanctions on Russia, which it relies on for grain and energy.

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