Minister: First grain to leave Ukraine ‘this week’

KYIV: Russia appears to have reversed itself when the country’s top diplomat said Moscow’s broader goal is to topple the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as Russian artillery barrages and airstrikes continue to hit cities across Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s remarks come amid efforts by Ukraine to restart grain exports from its Black Sea ports, something that will help ease the global food shortage, triggered by a Russian strike on Odessa over the weekend. Under a new deal tested.
Speaking to envoys at an Arab League summit in Cairo late Sunday, Lavrov said Moscow is determined to help Ukrainians “free themselves from the burden of this absolutely unacceptable regime.”
Lavrov accused Kyiv and “its Western allies” of propaganda aimed at ensuring that Ukraine “becomes Russia’s eternal enemy.”
“While the Russian and Ukrainian people will continue to live together, we will certainly help the Ukrainian people get rid of the regime, which is completely anti-people and anti-historic,” he said.
Lavrov’s remarks contrasted sharply with the Kremlin’s line at the start of the war, when Russian officials repeatedly insisted that they were not seeking to overthrow Zelensky’s government.
Lavrov argued that Russia was ready to negotiate an agreement to end hostilities in March, when Kyiv compromised and announced its intention to defeat Russia on the battlefield, asserting that the West had Ukraine is encouraged to continue fighting.
“The West insists that Ukraine should not start talks until Russia is defeated on the battlefield,” Lavrov said.
It was not yet clear whether grain shipments would resume after Russia and Ukraine signed similar agreements with the United Nations and Turkey on Friday in Istanbul. The deals are aimed at clearing the way for shipments of millions of tons of desperately needed Ukrainian grain, as well as exports of Russian grain and fertilizer.
The Kremlin insisted Monday that an attack on Odessa’s port over the weekend targeted military assets and would not affect grain shipping.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the strike had to do “specifically with military infrastructure”.
“It is in no way related to infrastructure involved in fulfilling agreements and exporting food grains. Therefore this in no way can and should not affect the start of the shipment process,” Peskov said.
The Kremlin spokesman also said that Moscow was not interested in stopping all gas supplies to Europe and that recent restrictions on the flow of Russian gas into European countries “are merely the result of sanctions imposed by Europeans, and the Europeans themselves are not involved in these”. Victims are banned.”
Peskov said, “Russia is a responsible gas supplier, and it doesn’t matter what anyone says, the European Commission, in European capitals, in America, Russia has been a country that largely guarantees Europe’s energy security.” gives.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s presidential office said on Monday that at least two civilians were killed and 10 others were injured in the latest Russian shelling during the past 24 hours.
In the eastern Donetsk region, the focus of the Russian offensive, Russian artillery attacked Avdeevka, Kramatorsk and Kostiantinivka. At least five houses were damaged in the airstrike in Bakhmut.
“The Russians are using scorched earth tactics throughout the Donbass, they set fire to wipe out entire cities from the ground and from the air,” Donetsk government Pavlo Kirilenko said in remarks on television.
The Russians also attacked the Kharkiv region. In the city of Chuhuiv, a Russian attack destroyed the building of a local club and rescuers pulled several people from under the rubble.
Kharkiv Governor Oleh Sinyhubov condemned the attack as “stupid vandalism”, saying “it looks like a deadly lottery when no one knows where the next strike will come and the whole area is dangerous to live in.”
In the Dnipro region, a 10-year-old girl was injured in the shelling, and a 7-year-old child was injured in the Russian shelling of the Mykolaiv region.
In other developments:
Russia’s top domestic security agency said on Monday it had foiled an attempt by Ukrainian military intelligence to entice Russian military pilots to surrender their fighter planes to Ukraine.
The Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB’s successor agency, said on Monday that Ukrainians offered Russian pilots cash and EU citizenship to persuade them to hijack their warplanes. In a video released by the FSB, a man said to be a Ukrainian intelligence officer is offering to pay a potential defector pilot $2 million if he would surrender his plane during a combat mission over Ukraine.
Russian state television claimed that Western spy agencies assisted Ukrainians in this effort. The Russian claims could not be independently verified.