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Kuleba: F-16 jets will enable Ukraine to protect grain corridor

by Martin Fornusek July 25, 2023 9:16 PM 2 min read
Portuguese Air Force F-16 fighter jets during NATO's Baltic Air Policing Mission in Lithuanian airspace near Siauliai on May 23, 2023. (AFP via Getty Images)
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Ukraine could use F-16 fighter jets to protect grain shipping lanes in the Black Sea, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told France 24 on July 25.

"If we have F-16s, we will not depend on Russian blackmail in exporting Ukrainian grain to global markets," Kuleba said.

"The sooner we receive them, the sooner we will be able to launch a new corridor, protected, efficient, that will act, that will function without any hindrances and 100 million tons of Ukrainian grain will make it to the global market, stabilizing the prices."

At the Vilnius NATO summit, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov signed a memorandum with 11 countries outlining the F-16 training schedule for Ukrainian pilots. According to the White House, Ukraine will receive the jets before the end of 2023.

Kuleba further said in the interview that Kyiv keeps trying to revive the Black Sea Grain Initiative through talks with Turkey and the U.N. At the same time, Ukraine is considering an alternative way of exporting its grain.

In particular, Kuleba mentioned expanding the EU's solidarity lanes, instituted in May 2022, as an option.

The EU said that more than 45 million tonnes of grain, oilseed, and other products have been exported via the solidarity lanes since the start of the invasion.

Commenting on a media report that Russia intends to work with Qatar and Turkey to import Russian grain into Africa, thus supplementing Ukrainian products, Kuleba said such a move would be "shameful" to any country taking part in the scheme.

The minister noted that through the destruction of Ukrainian ports, Russia is blackmailing the whole world with a food crisis and hunger.

After its withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17, Russian forces began targeting Ukrainian agricultural infrastructure and food stocks, with Odesa Oblast suffering regular attacks.

Moscow also announced that vessels sailing toward Ukraine's ports will be treated as carriers of military cargo and that all ships on the Black Sea will be inspected by Russian forces for possible military shipments.

In turn, Kyiv said that any ships heading toward Russia-controlled ports will also be treated as carriers of military supplies.

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