President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has spoken with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, about the collapse of a deal that allowed Ukrainian ships carrying grain to bypass a Russian blockade, as Moscow pummels Ukraine’s port infrastructure and vows that commercial ships in the Black Sea could be perceived as carrying military cargo.
Moscow pulled out of the deal, which was reached under the auspices of Turkey and the United Nations, this past week, and any efforts to revive it have been plunged into doubt. Since its collapse, Russia has bombarded Ukrainian ports, including striking grain stores and other infrastructure, although it was largely quiet in the area overnight into Saturday.
“Due to Russia’s actions, the world is once again on the brink of a food crisis,” Mr. Zelensky wrote on Twitter late Friday. “A total of 400 million people in many countries of Africa and Asia are at risk of starvation. Together, we must avert a global food crisis.”
Mr. Erdogan has been a key mediator between Russia and Ukraine since the full-scale invasion began last February, standing out from his NATO allies by keeping up friendly relations with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Mr. Erdogan is expected to meet with Mr. Putin next month.
Mr. Zelensky said he had discussed prospects for peace with Mr. Erdogan and asked for help in returning prisoners of war, particularly members of the Crimean Tatar ethnic minority.
“During the meeting, President Erdogan stated that Turkey put forth an intense effort to make peace prevail,” the Turkish president’s office said on Twitter, adding that the call on Friday had taken place at Kyiv’s request.
Russia has said that it would renew the deal, but only if other nations lift the sanctions that they imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine, a move that is unlikely. Moscow says that the deal has not been fair to Russia and that its producers have been forced to sell grain and other agricultural products at below-market prices.
On Friday, Mr. Erdogan told reporters that Russia wanted the grain corridor to remain, “but has some expectations from Western countries, and they need to take action.” He said he would discuss the issue with Mr. Putin on the phone and when they meet.
Moscow’s decision to end the deal came just days after the Turkish leader held a warm meeting with President Biden and said that Ukraine deserved “NATO membership with no doubt,” a move that potentially complicates relations with Mr. Putin, who has blamed NATO’s expansion, in part, for his decision to invade Ukraine, and raises questions about the possibility of reviving the deal.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Friday, accused Russia of “weaponizing food supplies” and said it would be “very, very difficult” for Ukraine to resume shipments of grain and other food products.
An attack on the bridge linking Russia to the occupied peninsula of Crimea, which killed two civilians, has also raised tensions in the region. The bridge has remained closed for almost a week because of damage that Russia has blamed on Ukraine, and Russian vacationers traveling to or from the peninsula were being told to take a much longer route through occupied territories, including the heavily damaged city of Mariupol. That route was also blocked on Saturday morning, Russian officials wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
At a video address to the Aspen Security Forum, Mr. Zelensky said on Friday that the bridge was a legitimate target for Ukraine, and that it should be destroyed.
“The goal is to return the entire Crimea, because this is our sovereign territory,” he said. “The Kerch bridge is not some small logistical road. It is used to deliver ammunition and militarize the Crimean Peninsula.”
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