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Russia-Ukraine updates: 3 more ships with corn leave Ukraine ports

The Panama-flagged Navistar cargo ship was one of the three vessels to depart Odesa on Friday

The Panama-flagged Navistar cargo ship was one of the three vessels to depart Odesa on Friday

Ukrainian officials and the Turkish Ministry of Defense confirmed that three ships loaded with grain left Ukraine's Black Sea ports loaded with more than 57,000 tons of corn, used mostly for animal feed.

Kyiv said two of the ships, the Maltese-flagged "Rojen" and the Turkish "Polarnet" — carrying maize departed from Chornomorsk — and the Panama-flagged "Navi-Star," all left from Odessa.

"Our main goal is to increase the trans-shipment volume in our ports. We have to process 100 carriers per month to be able to export the necessary amount of foodstuffs," Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said.

Shipments of grain from Ukraine's ports has restarted following a deal made last month between Russia and Ukraine that was mediated by Turkey under UN auspices.

Already-high food prices have remained at elevated levels for months now amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with both Russia and Ukraine being among the world's leading exporters.

Earlier in the week, a ship left Ukraine's port loaded with grain for the first time since February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Twenty million tons of grain remain trapped in ports and storage silos in Ukraine due to the conflict.

Ukrainian Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka told The Financial Times that Ukraine would like to see the deal expanded beyond grain.

"What's the difference between grain and iron ore?" Kachka asked.

Russia endangering safety and security of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

In its daily briefing about the war, British intelligence said actions by Russian forces at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe's largest, are endangering the safety and security of the facility.

Russia has likely deployed artillery in areas adjacent to the plant to target areas on the opposite side of the Dnieper River. They are likely using the plant, which they seized in March, as a nuclear shield.

Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), described the situation in precarious terms during a nonproliferation conference in New York this week.

"All principles of nuclear safety have been violated in one way or another," Grossi said.

Located in the city of Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia has six reactors and generates more than one fifth of Ukraine's national electricity needs when able to operate as normal.

Ukraine says Russia has launched major Donetsk offensive

Ukraine said Russian troops have launched a significant offensive in the Donetsk region.

Ukraine's defensive line stretches from the towns of Soledar and Bakhmut, which the Russians are trying to capture to extend their control in Donetsk.

Prior to the war, half a million people resided in this area, which is now heavily militarized.

Ukraine's general staff said fighting near Bakhmut has been inconclusive.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said fighting also continued near the villages of Pisky and Avdiivka. Russian state-run Tass news agency said Russian and pro-Russian forces had seized Pisky, whereas Ukraine has only acknowledged Russia's "partial success" in the last few days.

For years, Ukraine has fortified Pisky and seen the town as a defensive ground from which to buffer Russian proxy forces holding the city of Donetsk 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to the south.

Ukrainian General Oleksiy Hromov said Ukraine retook two villages around the eastern city of Sloviansk but was pushed back to the town of Avdiivka. Ukrainian forces had to abandon a defensive position at a coal mine it considered significant.

ar/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)