Putin warns of a long war as the West seeks to unblock Ukraine’s grain exports

  • Russian Foreign Minister slams G20 over Ukraine
  • Russia says sanctions are economic warfare of the West
  • Moscow turns to China and India
  • Zelenskiy says Ukraine will not be broken
  • Putin warns of tragedy if Kyiv continues

KYIV, July 8 (Reuters) – Western officials tried on Friday to get Russia to allow Ukraine to ship its grain around the world as the four-month-old war threatened to sow hunger in countries far from the fields of battle.

Moscow, however, has accused the West of waging an economic war on Russia by attempting to isolate it with sanctions imposed during the Feb. 24 invasion.

President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russian military operations in Ukraine have only just begun and prospects for negotiations will dim as the conflict drags on.

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“We have repeatedly heard that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian. It is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems that everything is heading towards this,” Putin said in a speech to parliament on Thursday. .

On the frontlines in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, officials reported continued Russian shelling of towns and villages ahead of a planned new push to seize more territory.

“NOT YOUR COUNTRY”

At a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Bali, Indonesia, some of the most vocal critics of the Russian invasion clashed with top Kremlin diplomat Sergei Lavrov.

One of their main concerns was to get Ukrainian grain shipments out of blocked Black Sea ports. Ukraine is a major exporter and aid agencies have warned that countries in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere will face devastating food shortages if supplies do not reach them.

During a plenary session, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Moscow to let Ukrainian grain out into the world, a Western official said.

“He addressed Russia directly saying, ‘To our Russian colleagues: Ukraine is not your country. Its grain is not your grain. Why are you blocking the ports? You should let the grain’,” the official said.

Earlier, Lavrov chastised the West, saying that instead of focusing on how to solve global economic problems at the meeting, ministers launched into a “frenzied criticism” of Russia over the Ukrainian conflict.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi called on the G20 to “find a way forward” to address global challenges and said the repercussions of the war, including rising energy and food prices , would hit poor countries the hardest.

“It is our responsibility to end the war as soon as possible and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield,” Retno said at the opening of the talks.

However, Putin’s comments in Moscow indicated that the prospects of that happening were dim at this time.

NO SORROW

Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II has killed thousands, displaced millions and destroyed Ukrainian cities.

Russia says its “special military operation” is aimed at degrading the Ukrainian military and rooting out people it calls dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and its Western supporters say Russia is engaged in unwarranted land grabbing.

After failing to quickly take the capital Kyiv, Russia is now waging a war of attrition in Ukraine’s industrial heartland of Donbass, made up of Lugansk and Donetsk regions.

On Sunday, Moscow said it had “liberated” Lugansk and now plans to capture parts of neighboring Donetsk it does not control.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Friday that Russian forces were indiscriminately shelling villages, towns and villages.

“They hit houses, every building that seems to them a possible fortification. To advance, do not count the personal losses and do not have pity on the inhabitants of the zone”, he declared.

The situation was similar in the Donetsk settlements.

Vadym Lyakh, the mayor of Sloviansk in Donetsk, said a woman was killed overnight when Russian shelling hit a residential building.

Reuters could not independently verify the Battlefield accounts.

The British Ministry of Defense said Russian forces would likely halt to replenish before undertaking further offensive operations in Donetsk. The ministry said Russia’s immediate tactical target could be Siversk, a small industrial town north of Donetsk.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his nightly video message, said the raising of the Ukrainian flag on Snake Island in the Black Sea on Thursday was a sign that his country would not be broken.

Russia abandoned Snake Island, some 140 km (85 miles) south of the port of Odessa, in late June – a victory for Ukraine, which Kyiv hoped could ease Moscow’s blockade on Ukrainian ports .

“Let every Russian captain on board a ship or plane see the Ukrainian flag on Snake Island and know that our country will not be broken,” Zelenskiy said.

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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