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According to Erdogan, Russia and Ukraine are extending grain agreements

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday the extension of the grain deal between Russia and Ukraine.

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According to Erdogan, Russia and Ukraine are extending grain agreements

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday the extension of the grain deal between Russia and Ukraine. "After talks with both sides, we have pledged to extend the agreement, which was due to expire on March 19," the Turkish leader said in a televised address on Saturday, just hours before the deal was due to expire. However, Erdogan did not initially provide information on the duration of the extension.

The agreement on the Black Sea Grain Initiative was mediated by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 and provides for the release of Ukrainian ports and a corridor in the Black Sea for grain exports. Russia had blocked Ukrainian grain exports for months after the start of its war of aggression on February 24, 2022. Ukraine and Russia are important suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs to countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia.

Ankara previously said it hoped for a 120-day extension. Russia, on the other hand, insisted on an extension of just 60 days.

Ukraine reported new drone attacks on the west of the country on Saturday, especially in the Lviv region. On Friday evening, the Russian army attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made drones, the Ukrainian army said in a statement on the online service Telegram. Eleven of 16 drones were "destroyed". The attacks were launched from the Sea of ​​Azov and from the Russian region of Briansk.

The region around Lviv in the extreme west of Ukraine was reportedly particularly targeted by the drones. "Around 01:00 in the morning, our region was attacked by Shahed-136 kamikaze drones," said regional governor Maksim Kositski. Three drones were shot down and three others hit non-residential buildings, he added. There was damage, but no one was injured.

According to the Ukrainian authorities, three drones were also shot down in the Dnipro region in the southeast. There were no injuries there either, but "critical infrastructure" was hit in Novomoskovsk, there was a fire and four houses were destroyed and six others damaged. However, all drones aimed at the capital Kiev were shot down by the Ukrainian air defense, the city administration said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin flew to the Black Sea peninsula to mark the anniversary of Crimea's annexation. The casually dressed Putin was seen on state television with a group of officials. Russia declared the Ukrainian peninsula part of its own territory in 2014. The war goal of the government in Kiev is the liberation of Crimea and all other Russian-occupied areas.

According to Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, Germany and Japan could work together more closely because of increasing armaments budgets. Japan will double its defense budget in the next five years, said the SPD politician in Tokyo after the German-Japanese government consultations. Germany has a 100 billion euro pot for the Bundeswehr and an increasing defense budget. "Perhaps this could result in new synergies," he said, referring to armaments cooperation, but without giving details. As a "navy-strong" nation, Japan is an interesting partner, for example when it comes to submarine propulsion.

The head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, wants to sign around 30,000 new fighters by mid-May. In an audio message in the short message service Telegram, he explains that 500 to 800 men are recruited every day in the recruitment centers in 42 Russian cities.

Russia attacked several Ukrainian regions with drones on Saturday night. The Ukrainian Air Force said on Telegram that 11 out of 16 drones were shot down "in the central, western and eastern regions".

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has welcomed the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Russian President Vladimir Putin. "The International Criminal Court is the right institution to investigate war crimes," Scholz said at government consultations in Tokyo. Nobody is above the law. The federal government has always ensured that the ICC is given the importance it deserves. Scholz said he did not know whether Putin would attend the G-20 summit in India. Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was cautious.

Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin has signed the tightening of the controversial law punishing "slander" or "discrediting" of war volunteers. This not only severely punishes criticism of the regular army, but also of “volunteers” fighting in the neighboring country. The law "On entering amendments to the Criminal Code" was published on the official law portal of the Russian government on Saturday. A conviction under the new law carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

The tightening of the law is mainly due to a demand from the head of the notorious Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin. He had recruited rows of serious criminals for the war against Ukraine. The 61-year-old asked politicians to protect the mercenaries - who are officially considered volunteers - from defamation.

According to British intelligence services, Russia's authorities are probably preparing for an expansion of military service in order to strengthen the armed forces. On March 13, a bill was introduced in the Russian House of Commons, according to which men between the ages of 21 and 30 should be called up instead of men between the ages of 18 and 27, the British Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday. "The law is expected to be passed and would then come into force in January 2024," it said in London.

Since Soviet times, Russia has been conscripting conscripts twice a year. "Officially, Russia continues to exclude conscripts from operations in Ukraine, although at least hundreds are likely to have been deployed - through mix-up by authorities or after being coerced into signing contracts," the UK ministry wrote.

According to the intelligence services, many 18- to 27-year-olds are currently applying for exemption from military service by citing that they are in college education. Authorities are now likely changing the age range to increase troop levels, sources said. "Even if Russia continues to refrain from using conscripts in war, additional conscripts will make a larger number of professional soldiers available for combat operations."

The head of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller, expects it to be months before the falling wholesale prices for electricity and gas reach consumers. He assumes that households will only be able to benefit from the cuts in six to twelve months, Müller told the Düsseldorf Rheinische Post. "This is due to the term of the contracts and the purchasing strategy of the company."

However, according to the head of the network agency, energy prices will no longer be as low as they were before the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. "We have to get used to higher prices, the era of cheap energy from Russia is finally over," he explained.

Ukraine's Ambassador to the UN, Serhiy Kyslytsia, has recalled his earlier words on the issue in the wake of the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes. At the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he said at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council that war criminals "go straight to hell". Today he wants to say that those who are still alive after a military defeat by Russia must make a stopover in The Hague on the way to hell.

US President Joe Biden has called the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin justified. The move sends “a very strong signal,” Biden told journalists in Washington on Friday (local time). Putin "clearly committed war crimes". However, the International Criminal Court is not recognized worldwide, "not even by us," added the President.

The International Criminal Court based in The Hague, Netherlands, issued an arrest warrant against Putin for war crimes in Ukraine on Friday. Investigators blame him for kidnapping children from occupied Ukrainian territory to Russian territory. Russian troops invaded Ukraine 13 months ago on Putin's orders. In the spring of 2014, Moscow had already annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and then supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Criminal Court dates back to the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which was created through UN-led negotiations. In addition to Russia, the USA and China also do not recognize the court. Lawyers often cite the fact that these states want to protect their political leaders and soldiers from judicial access as the reason for this. In total, more than 120 countries have ratified the Rome Statute.

When asked whether Putin would be arrested on the basis of the arrest warrant if he traveled to the United States, National Security Council communications director John Kirby was evasive on Friday evening (local time) on CNN. In any case, he thinks it is unlikely that Putin will come.

Shortly before a necessary extension of the agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea, the United Nations are working flat out to find a solution. UN emergency aid coordinator Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council in New York that everything would be done to ensure continuity and that the parties involved were in contact with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey.

There is a dispute between Moscow and the other contracting parties when it comes to extending the agreement: Russia only wants to authorize the export for a further 60 days, but the text actually provides for an automatic extension by 120 days if no party objects. A change to the agreement, which would also include a new 60-day period, would have to be confirmed by all parties involved and cannot be announced unilaterally. The current rule expires on Sunday.

The US has resumed surveillance flights with unmanned drones over the Black Sea. This was announced by two employees of the US government. An RQ-4 Global Hawk drone has flown the region. One of the staff said it was the first drone flight since Tuesday's incident, when a Russian fighter jet grazed a US drone and crashed it.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has expressed confidence that Turkey and Hungary will agree to Sweden joining the alliance after giving the green light to Finland's membership. "I am confident that Sweden will be included soon and I will work hard for it," he told Reuters.

"Kick-off" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, among others, or directly via RSS feed.

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