To begin, Assistant Comment Editor Francis Dearnley speaks about today’s meeting between Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Erdogan, which was preceded by a series of Russian drone strikes on Ukrainian ports:
We understand that in the past couple of hours Erdogan has arrived in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks with Putin. Erdogan was accompanied by a large delegation that included Turkey’s Defence, Foreign, Energy and Finance ministers, according to reports, with Erdogan aiming to convince Putin to return to a Ukraine grain-export deal that helped ease a global food crisis before Moscow pulled out in July.
There is quite a lot at stake for him: he brokered the last deal and by personally putting himself forward as the chief negotiator, he will want to come out of this with something to show for it reputationally.
Yet questions remain over Turkey’s trustworthiness from the perspective of Western powers, including Ukraine, who fear that any revived deal may make concessions to Russia, reducing certain sanctions, which was evidently their intention for departing the deal in the first place. As we have seen time and time again, Russia moves first, sets the tone of the discussion without an adequate response from the West. Whilst there have been attempts to re-open channels for grain shipments – via certain sea and land corridors – the perception is, and again I emphasise that word, that the West has little leverage over Russia on this.
Had there been a more robust response, with alternative avenues found speedily for shipping grain out of Ukraine, thus reducing leverage of Russia’s influence in discussions regarding the grain deal, then things might look very different entering these negotiations. As it is, it looks rather like the West is relying on the deal being re-struck via Turkey – who is hardly the most trusted Western ally – with seemingly little leverage over the Russians, who think nothing of bombarding Ukraine’s grain silos in the hours before the meeting, as if to drum home their control over the framing of these negotiations.
Foreign Correspondent James Kilner, adds to Francis’s analysis and discusses the weekend’s strikes on the port of Reni.
Russia’s coming under huge pressure from African states, from the Middle East, from South Asian states – countries that it still feels it needs to court.
This is the important thing here. There’s a huge diplomatic element. Russia, without many of its major friends, still feels it needs to be friendly to lower income countries in Africa and South Asia, etc. and so it’s come under a lot of pressure to get the grain deal up and running again.
But in the meantime, in the two months since it broke up the previous deal it has spent a lot of time and effort destroying Ukrainian grain infrastructure. Most of it is in Odesa, the biggest Ukrainian port, but since the start of the war Ukraine’s been putting a lot of effort into restructuring its grain export systems through the Danube Delta.
Now this is on the very western edge of Ukraine. The Danube obviously flows into the Black Sea, so it goes up through western Ukraine, Romania, and then into central Europe. And it gives Ukraine a huge export corridor, if you like.
Aliona Hlivco, former Ukrainian MP and Managing Director of the Henry Jackson Society, and Joe Barnes, our Brussels Correspondent, also contribute in this episode.
War in Ukraine is reshaping our world. Every weekday The Telegraph’s top journalists analyse the invasion from all angles – military, humanitarian, political, economic, historical – and tell you what you need to know to stay updated.
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Ukraine: The Latest’s regular contributors are:
David is Head of Audio Development at The Telegraph, where he has worked for nearly three years. He has reported from across Ukraine during the full-scale invasion.
Dom is Associate Editor (Defence) at The Telegraph, having joined in 2018. He previously served for 23 years in the British Army, in tank and helicopter units. He had operational deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.
Francis is assistant comment editor at The Telegraph. Prior to working as a journalist, he was chief of staff to the Chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board at the Houses of Parliament in London. He studied History at Cambridge University and on the podcast explores how the past shines a light on the latest diplomatic, political, and strategic developments.
They are also regularly joined by The Telegraph’s foreign correspondents around the world, including Joe Barnes (Brussels), Sophia Yan (China), Nataliya Vasilyeva (Russia), Roland Oliphant (Senior Reporter) and Colin Freeman (Reporter). In London, Venetia Rainey (Weekend Foreign Editor), Katie O’Neill (Assistant Foreign Editor), and Verity Bowman (News Reporter) also frequently appear to offer updates.