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UKRAINE

Spanish PM arrives in Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s Zelensky

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen arrived in Kyiv on Thursday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Spanish government said.

Spanish PM arrives in Kyiv to meet Ukraine's Zelensky
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez smiles as he visits a reception centre for Ukrainian refugees in Malaga, on April 20, 2022. - More than five million Ukrainians have now fled their country following the Russian invasion, the United Nations said on April 20, 2022, in Europe's fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

Sánchez said on Wednesday he would convey to Zelensky the European Union and Spain’s “clear engagement… for peace”.

He said Spain would continue to work for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine, while also sending “all the humanitarian and military aid needed” and taking in Ukrainian refugees.

“Government leader Pedro Sánchez has just arrived in Kyiv, where he will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is travelling with him,” the Spanish government said.

“After their talks the three leaders will meet the press,” it added.

Spain has taken in 134,000 Ukrainians, of whom 64,000 have received temporary protection, including accommodation and a work permit.

Madrid has sent about a dozen planes to Ukraine carrying “hundreds of tonnes” of weapons and humanitarian supplies, Defence Minister Margarita Robles said on Monday.

In another sign of support for Kyiv, Sánchez announced on Monday that Spain would reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital “in a few days’ time”.

The embassy suspended activity the day after the Russian invasion on February 24 for security reasons.

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UKRAINE

Ukrainian grain dodges Russian blockade to reach Spain via new route

A Ukrainian grain shipment arrived in Spain on Monday after being shipped via the Baltic Sea to circumvent Russia’s blockade, imposed following the outbreak of war, a Spanish association said.

Ukrainian grain dodges Russian blockade to reach Spain via new route

The Finnish-flagged cargo ship, the Alppila, carrying 18,000 tonnes of grain for animal feed docked at A Coruña port in northwestern Spain early on Monday, the Agafac food manufacturers association said.

It said it was the first time such a route had been used for Ukrainian grain.

Agafac, which had placed the order, said the grain had been transported by lorry to the northwestern Polish port of Swinoujscie on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

It then called in at Brunsbuettel in northern Germany before heading for Spain.

This is “the first shipment of grain to be transported via a new sea route through the Baltic Sea to circumvent the Russian naval blockade on Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea that has been in place since the war began,” Agafac said.

Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for Ukraine’s agriculture ministry was unable to confirm whether or not it was the first such shipment of Ukrainian grain to travel via the Baltic Sea.

“We don’t have information about transportation specifically to Spain. We deliver to Romania, Poland. This is probably the logistics outside Ukraine,” he said.

When Russia invaded on February 24th, it imposed a naval blockade on Ukraine’s Black Sea ports that has choked off its grain exports, threatening a global food crisis.

Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine was the world’s top producer of sunflower oil and a major wheat exporter, but millions of tonnes of grain exports remain trapped due to the blockade.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukraine is currently exporting more than two million tonnes of grain a month via rail but that figure is far below what it was exporting before the war via its ports, notably Odessa.

The United Nations and certain countries like France and Turkey have been pushing for the opening of a “security corridor” in the Black Sea to allow Ukrainian exports to resume.

At the end of May, General Christopher Cavoli, the incoming head of the US European Command, said Germany’s railway company recently set up a “Berlin train lift” — a special train service to move Ukraine’s grain exports.

He said Poland was working on a simplified border crossing regime to ease the deliveries, and once out of Poland, the grain was taken to Germany’s northern ports to be shipped onwards.

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