Zelenskyy to host Lviv talks with UN chief and Turkish leader

Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a potential power broker, will use his first trip to Ukraine since the war began nearly six months ago to look for ways to increase grain exports from Europe’s breadbasket to the world’s poor, while António Guterres of the United Nations will concentrate on containing the explosive situation at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant.

Both men are being hosted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the western city of Lviv, far from the front lines, where diplomatic attempts to aid in the conclusion of the war will also be on the agenda.

The sounds of approaching shells continued to drown out diplomatic mutterings in the interim.

On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, a series of powerful Russian missile attacks on the Kharkiv area of Ukraine resulted in a total of 11 fatalities and 40 injuries.

At least 20 people were hurt in the late-night attack on Kharkiv on Wednesday, and residential structures and infrastructure were also destroyed, according to the police.

At the same time, the Russian Defense Ministry stated on Thursday morning that it had killed 90 foreign mercenaries by attacking “a temporary base of foreign mercenaries” in Kharkiv.

The three leaders will also examine the situation at the largest nuclear power facility in Europe, the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine, which Moscow and Kyiv have both claimed to have shelled.

Zelensky reiterated his demand that the Russian military leave the facility in his nightly video speech on Wednesday, stressing that “only perfect openness and oversight of the situation” by, among others, the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, could ensure a restoration to nuclear safety.

Russia emphasized the dangers the facility presented during a conflict. The head of the Russian military’s radiological, chemical, and biological defense forces, Lt. Gen. Igor Kirillov, said that the Ukrainian forces planned to attack the facility once again on Friday while Guterres was still in Ukraine to accuse Russia of nuclear terrorism. The facility is not being targeted, according to Ukraine.

In an emergency at the facility, radioactive materials may be released into the sky and travel hundreds of kilometers distant, according to Kirillov. This sort of catastrophe will result in enormous migration and more disastrous outcomes than Europe’s impending gas energy crisis.

The importance of a middleman like Erdogan may increase given the high stakes involved.

Erdogan is in charge of a shaky economy that is becoming more and more dependent on Russian commerce, even though his country is a member of NATO and supports Ukraine in the conflict. Meetings on Thursday in Lviv became a diplomatic tightrope walk because of this background. The Turkish president and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed these problems at their meeting earlier this month.

Early in the afternoon, Erdogan and Zelenskyy are scheduled to meet for an hour before Guterres joins them both.

Turkey and the U.N. assisted in negotiating a deal last month that allows Ukraine to export 22 million tons of maize and other food that have been trapped in its Black Sea ports since Russia’s invasion on February 24. Russia and the U.N. signed a separate pact to remove obstacles in the way of exports of Russian food and fertilizer to other markets.

Because Ukraine and Russia are important suppliers, the war and the obstructed shipments severely worsened the world food situation. Exports have slowed to a trickle thus far, but Turkey can help them pick up momentum.

While certain grain prices have already decreased to their pre-war levels, they are still much higher than they were prior to the COVID-19 epidemic. Grain prices peaked during Russia’s invasion.

High costs and supply constraints have disproportionately hurt developing nations. The food crisis has not ended, despite the fact that ships are currently departing from Russia and Ukraine.

Before his meetings, Guterres visited the oldest university in Ukraine, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, and briefed media on the importance of academic institutions in the development of democratic institutions. On the content of the visit, he said nothing. Even though there is room for improvement on topics like grain shipments and nuclear security, discussions about a comprehensive resolution to the conflict weren’t anticipated to produce any significant results.

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met in March in Turkey to examine the possibility of reaching a peace agreement. After the meeting in Istanbul, the negotiations broke down, with each side placing the blame on the other.

Erdogan has managed to strike a difficult balance by keeping friendly ties with both Russia and Ukraine. Turkey has not joined Western sanctions on Russia over the crisis, but it has sent Ukraine drones that significantly contributed to thwarting an early Russian assault.

Turkey is relying more and more on Russia for commerce and tourism as it struggles with a severe economic crisis and official inflation rates close to 80%. Turkish energy demands are 45% met by Russian gas, and Russia’s nuclear agency is constructing Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.

Putin and Erdogan agreed to strengthen energy, financial, and other ties between their nations during their meeting this month in Sochi, raising concerns in the West that Ankara could assist Moscow in getting around U.S. and European Union sanctions.

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