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Russia’s Putin To Host Turkey’s Erdogan Amid Efforts To Repair Ukraine Grain Deal

This comes six weeks after Moscow broke off a deal partly brokered by Ankara that allowed Ukrainian grain to reach world markets despite the 18-month war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will host Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday, the Kremlin announced Friday, just over six weeks after Moscow broke off a deal partly brokered by Ankara that allowed Ukrainian grain to reach world markets despite the 18-month war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced the talks Friday, ending weeks of speculation about when and where the two leaders might meet next as international efforts continue to patch up the Black Sea Grain Initiative which got grain and other food to Africa, the Middle East and Asia where hunger is a growing threat.

Turkey, together with the United Nations, brokered a deal in July 2022 that allowed Ukraine to ship grain and other foodstuffs from three Black Sea ports.

A separate memorandum between the U.N. and Russia, agreed at the same time, pledged to overcome obstacles to Moscow’s shipment of food and fertilizer to world markets.

However, Russia pulled out of the deals earlier this year, claiming that its conditions hadn’t been met.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hosted his Turkish counterpart for talks in Moscow.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent Russia a new proposal in hopes of reviving the deal but it didn’t satisfy Moscow’s demands, Lavrov said then.

Lavrov said he had given Ankara a list of actions that the West would have to take in order to resume Ukrainian grain and fertilizer shipments. Talks between Putin and Erdogan could help unlock that.

The agreement had allowed Ukraine to ship almost 33,000 tons of grain at a time of growing global hunger.

Meanwhile, Russian officials said Friday that air defenses intercepted drones heading toward three of the country’s western regions. Regional governors said defense systems stopped three drones in the Kursk, Belgorod and Moscow regions.

Moscow airports briefly halted flights but no major damage or injuries were reported, according to Russian authorities.

Drones aimed at targets inside Russia — and blamed by Moscow on Ukraine — have become almost a daily occurrence as the war has entered its 19th month and Kyiv’s forces pursue a counteroffensive. Recently, the drones have reached deeper into Russia.

The apparent Ukrainian strategy is to unnerve Russia and pile pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, although Kyiv officials normally neither claim nor deny responsibility for attacks on Russian soil.

The Associated Press was unable to determine whether the drones are launched from Ukraine or inside Russia.

Meanwhile, satellite images analyzed by the AP show that suspected Ukrainian drone attacks late Tuesday destroyed at least two Ilyushin Il-76 military transport planes at a Russian air base.

The images taken Thursday show Princess Olga Pskov International Airport, which is a dual military-civilian airport about 700 kilometers (400 miles) north of the Ukrainian border and near Estonia and Latvia.

The four-engine Il-76 is the workhorse of the Russian military’s airlift capacity, able to land and take off in rugged conditions. The Russian military is believed to have over 100 of them in its fleet.

The AP analysis, conducted Friday, showed what appeared to be the blackened hulks of two Il-76s on separate parking pads on the air base’s apron. One included the plane’s tail, the other appeared to show pieces of another aircraft. Fire damage could be seen around the pad.

Eleven other Il-76s had been moved off their parking pads into different positions on the airport’s taxiways, possibly in an attempt to make it more difficult for them to be struck again. One was on the runway itself. Another Il-76 remained on the pad, though it wasn’t clear why.

Local reports said Ukrainian drone attacks on the air base had damaged four Il-76s.

The satellite image was taken at 1303 GMT Thursday. Videos on social media Thursday night showed anti-aircraft fire going around the air base again, though it remained unclear whether it was another attack.

The air base at Pskov was initially targeted Tuesday night, but cloud cover prevented satellites from getting an unobstructed picture.

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country had developed a weapon that hit a target 700 kilometers (400 miles) away, apparently referencing the air base attack. He described the weapon as being produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.

The Kremlin’s forces have targeted Ukraine with numerous salvos of Iranian-made exploding drones in the war over the past year.

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