“This is an artificial queue. It only arose because Russia is deliberately delaying the passage of the ships,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, accusing Russia of deliberately delaying the passage of ships carrying Ukrainian grain under a UN-brokered-deal, and said 150 vessels were waiting to be loaded.
Zelenskyy said the delay meant that 3 million metric tons (3.3 million US tons) were still blocked, noting that the amount was enough to feed 10 million people.
Kyiv has exported almost 11 million tons of grains and other foods since July, when the United Nations signed the agreement with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey.
The deal is to expire in November. Russia’s UN ambassador in Geneva has said negotiations on extending the agreement are not progressing well because Moscow’s concerns were not being taken into proper account.
Russia has previously criticized the deal, complaining that its own exports had suffered. It has also claimed, without evidence, that most of the grain was being delivered to Europe and not to the poor countries where it was most needed.
Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on October 21.
Russia has mined hydropower plant, Ukraine says
Ukraine has accused Russia of planning to destroy a hydropower plant in the eastern Kherson region — which Moscow has illegally annexed and subjected to martial law.
“Russia is preparing a manmade catastrophe,” Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Thursday.
Podolyak said Russia was mining the dam and transformers at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant to flood the lower Dnieper River, where Russian troops face a Ukrainian offensive.
Earlier on Thursday, Vladimir Leontyev, a Kremlin-installed regional official, said Ukrainian forces had launched five missile strikes against the Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric power station. He told Russian TV that if the facility was destroyed, a crucial canal providing water to annexed Crimea would be severed.
Zelenskyy said Russia had plans to blow up the dam and power station in what he deemed a terrorist act to unleash 18 million cubic meters and flood Kherson and dozens of areas that are home to hundreds of thousands of people.
The Ukrainian president told European leaders that Moscow would then blame Kyiv. Zelenskyy, in his daily address, said blowing up the dam would be “a catastrophe on a grand scale.”
Russian-installed officials say they are bolstering the defenses of the southern city of Kherson as Kyiv’s troops advance nearer.
Recent weeks have seen Ukrainian troops, using Western weapons, make convincing progress along the western bank of the Dniepr River.
The Ukrainian presidency on Friday said 88 towns and villages had been recaptured in the southern Kherson region. Kyiv is targeting Russian resupply routes across the Dniepr as it edges closer to a full assault on Moscow’s forces in the occupied city.
“The city of Kherson, like a fortress, is preparing for its defence,” said pro-Russian official Kirill Stremousov.
Pro-Russian authorities in the city have ordered residents to leave. On Friday, they claimed Ukrainian forces had killed four people when they shelled a bridge. Ukraine denied that they had killed any civilians.
The offensive threatens to deprive Moscow of the only provincial capital it had occupied since the start of the offensive in February. Kherson also represents a strategic prize, serving as Russia’s bridgehead for attacks on territory further west.
Ukraine military urges Belarusians to stay out of war
The Ukrainian military has issued a direct appeal to the population of Belarus, urging them not to join the “dirty war” against Ukraine.
“We call on all citizens of Belarus not to obey the orders of your leadership to enter the war against Ukraine,” a statement read.
With Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko seeking to embroil the Belarusian people in the war, the Ukrainian military urged citizens to make the “right choice.”
However, the statement warned that, if Belarus does directly participate in the war: “We will respond.”
The British Defense Ministry said in its morning intelligence briefing that it believes it is unlikely that Russia has actually deployed a significant number of extra troops into Belarus, amid further news of a joint deployment of Moscow and Minsk’s forces.
The assessment from London notes recent announcements are likely an attempt to demonstrate Russian-Belarusian solidarity and to convince Ukraine to divert forces to guard the northern border.
Belarusian authorities have released a video that claims to show Russian troops arriving in Belarus as strongman Alexander Lukashenko has said some 70,000 Belarusian troops and up to 15,000 Russians are to form a new Russian-Belarusian Group of Forces.
The UK said Russia was unlikely to be able to generate combat-ready formations of the claimed size because its forces are committed in Ukraine.
In addition, it said it was highly likely the Belarusian military had minimal capability to undertake such complex operations.
EU promises €1.5bn to Ukraine
The European Union is framing plans to give some €1.5 billion ($1.46 billion) in economic aid to Kyiv next year.
Speaking after an EU leaders’ summit, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Ukraine had requested “a stable, reliable and predictable flow” of macroeconomic support from international donors.
On the sidelines of the same summit, French President Emmanuel Macron said France would invite the leader of Moldova to Paris in November. Macron said he wanted to express France’s solidarity for the country in light of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine.
Earlier in the war, there were fears that the war could spill over into Moldova, where Russian troops are based in the breakaway Trans-Dniester region.
Russia, US defense chiefs speak
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has spoken to his US counterpart Lloyd Austin, in rare talks between Moscow and Washington since Russia invaded Ukraine.
“Topical issues of international security, including the situation in Ukraine, were discussed,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement on social media. It did not provide further details.