The Joint Coordination Center overseeing implementation of the U.N.- and Turkish-brokered deal to get commercial ships with Ukrainian grain to world markets said Thursday that three more ships are expected to sail Friday.
The first ship, the Razoni, departed on Monday from Odesa and is en route to Lebanon with a cargo of corn.
The Navistar will be the second vessel to sail from Odesa, carrying 33,000 metric tons of corn destined for Ireland.
The JCC, which is made up of representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, has also authorized the departure of two ships Friday from the port of Chornomorsk. The Polarnet will carry 12,000 metric tons of corn heading to Karasu, in northwestern Turkey, and the Rojen, which is carrying more than 13,000 metric tons of corn, is headed to Britain.
The total of 58,000 metric tons of grain is a small fraction of the more than 20 million metric tons in Ukrainian silos and on commercial ships waiting to leave the country. The U.N. says there are about 28 ships waiting to depart Ukrainian ports.
The JCC has also authorized the movement, pending inspection, of the Fulmar S, to enter the port of Chornomorsk. The ship is anchored at the center’s inspection area near Istanbul.
The vessels are scheduled to leave early Friday, but the JCC says departures could be affected “by readiness, weather conditions or other unexpected circumstances.” The vessels’ crew and cargo will undergo checks when they arrive at the inspection area in Turkey’s territorial waters.
The JCC says that, based on its experience with the first ship that sailed Monday, the Razoni, it is now testing moving multiple ships in the safe corridor, both outbound and inbound.
The Ukrainians mined their part of the Black Sea to protect their territory from Russian attacks. The U.N. said its experts determined early on in planning for the movement of grain not to attempt to demine the area, because it could take between three and five months, too long as food prices soar globally. Instead, safe lanes have been determined and the commercial vessels are to strictly adhere to them.
The JCC says the safe corridor has been revised “to allow for more efficient passage of ships while maintaining safety.”
There is a backlog of ships that have been stranded in Ukraine’s southern ports as a result of the more than five-month war. The JCC says the ships need to move out to free space for other ships to enter the ports so they can collect and transport food for export to world markets, as the July 22 Black Sea Grain Initiative envisages.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blasted Amnesty International in his daily address for an Amnesty report released Thursday that said “Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals, as they repelled the Russian invasion that began in February.”
Zelenskyy said the report “unfortunately tries to amnesty the terrorist state and shift the responsibility from the aggressor to the victim.” He said, “There cannot be, even hypothetically, any condition under which any Russian attack on Ukraine becomes justified. Aggression against our state is unprovoked, invasive and openly terroristic.”
Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said in a statement that Amnesty has “documented a pattern of Ukrainian forces putting civilians at risk and violating the laws of war when they operate in populated areas.” She said, “Being in a defensive position does not exempt the Ukrainian military from respecting international humanitarian law.”
The head of Amnesty’s Ukrainian office also took issue with the report and in posts on Facebook said the Ukrainian office “was not involved in the preparation or writing” of the report. Okswana Pokalchuk said “representatives of the Ukrainian office did everything they could to prevent this material from being published” and that the report “was created based on data collected by foreign researchers and researchers from the Crisis Response Department of our organization’s global office.”
Amnesty said its researchers investigated Russian strikes in Ukraine between April and July in the Kharkiv, Donbas and Mykolaiv regions. Amnesty said its “researchers found evidence of Ukrainian forces launching strikes from within populated residential areas as well as basing themselves in civilian buildings in 19 towns and villages in the regions.”
“Most residential areas where soldiers located themselves were kilometers away from front lines,” Amnesty said. “Viable alternatives were available that would not endanger civilians – such as military bases or densely wooded areas nearby, or other structures further away from residential areas.”
Amnesty said that in the cases it documented, it was “not aware that the Ukrainian military who located themselves in civilian structures in residential areas asked or assisted civilians to evacuate nearby buildings – a failure to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians.”
Zelensky said in his address, “Anyone who amnesties Russia and who artificially creates such an informational context that some attacks by terrorists are supposedly justified or supposedly understandable, cannot but realize that it helps the terrorists. And if you provide manipulative reports, then you share the responsibility for the death of people with them.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday the Western military alliance has the joint tasks of supporting Ukraine in its fight against a Russian invasion and preventing the conflict from spreading into a war between Russia and NATO.
Speaking to a summer camp in his native Norway, Stoltenberg said NATO has a moral responsibility to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people who have been subjected to a war of aggression.
“We are seeing acts of war, attacks on civilians and destruction not seen since World War II,” Stoltenberg said, according to a NATO release of his prepared remarks. “We cannot be indifferent to this.”
Stotenberg said the world will be a more dangerous place if Russian President Vladimir Putin gets what he wants through the use of military force.
“If Russia wins this war, he will have confirmation that violence works. Then other neighboring countries may be next,” he said.
Ukraine’s military said Thursday that Russian forces were shelling multiple areas in Ukraine, including those around Kharkiv, Slovyansk and Chernihiv.
Meanwhile, Britain’s defense ministry said Ukrainian forces were using missiles and artillery attacks against Russian “military strongholds, personnel clusters, logistical support bases and ammunition depots.” A ministry statement said such attacks were likely to have a high impact on Russia’s efforts to resupply and support its forces.