A deal to expedite grain exports has been reached between Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania

KYIV – Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania have agreed on a plan they hope will help expedite Ukrainian grain exports, officials said Tuesday, with needy countries beyond Europe potentially benefitting from speedier procedures.

The deal means that grain inspections will shift from the Ukraine-Poland border to a Lithuanian port on the Baltic Sea, according to a statement from the Ukrainian farm ministry.

The move seeks to facilitate the transit of Ukrainian exports through Polish territory, the statement said, without providing further details.

From the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda, where the inspections for pests and plant diseases will take place from Wednesday, the grain can be exported by sea around the world.

While the stated goal is to hasten Ukrainian grain exports, the agreement may also help defuse tensions over grain prices between Ukraine and Poland a time when some international support for Kyiv’s efforts to throw back Russia’s invasion may be fraying.

Agricultural exports have brought one of the biggest threats to European unity for Ukraine since Russia invaded.

Russia dealt a huge blow by withdrawing in July from a wartime agreement that ensured safe passage for Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. That has left more expensive overland routes through Europe as the main path for Ukraine’s exports.

Farmers in nearby countries have been upset that Ukraine’s food products have flooded their local markets, pushing prices down and hurting their livelihoods. Sealed freight has helped combat that problem, and sending Ukrainian grain straight to the Lithuanian port may also be an answer.

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia announced bans on local imports of Ukrainian food after a European Union embargo ended in mid-September. Ukraine filed a complaint soon afterward with the World Trade Organization as the spat worsened.

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The EU countries said they would keep allowing those products to move through their borders to parts of the world where people are going hungry.

Ukraine is a major global supplier of wheat, barley, corn and vegetable oil and has struggled since Russia’s invasion to get its food products to parts of the world in need.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian air defenses intercepted 29 out of 31 Shahed drones and one Iskander-K cruise missile launched over Ukraine early Tuesday morning, Ukraine’s air force reported.

The attack was targeted at Ukraine’s eastern Dnipropetrovsk region and the Mykolaiv region of southern Ukraine, it said. No injuries were reported but an industrial facility was damaged.

Ukraine’s presidential office said Tuesday that at least two civilians were killed and 14 were wounded over the previous 24 hours.

The greatest number of casualties occurred in the south, where the Russian army shelled the regional capital Kherson nine times, it said.

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Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, and Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine