Three more ships loaded with grain sailed from Ukraine on Friday under a UN-backed deal lifting Russia's blockade of the Black Sea, Turkey's defence ministry said. Their departure came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to meet in Sochi for talks on ending the war in Ukraine and starting a new one in Syria. Follow FRANCE 24's liveblog for the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
9:35am: Three more grain ships leave Ukraine, Turkey says
Three more ships loaded with grain sailed from Ukraine on Friday under a UN-backed deal lifting Russia's blockade of the Black Sea, Turkey's defence ministry said.
The Panama-flagged Navistar left Odessa for Ireland with 33,000 tonnes of grain, it said.
And two ships left the port of Chornomorsk -- the Malta-flagged Rojen headed to Britain with 13,000 tonnes of grain, and the Turkish-flagged Polarnet sailed towards Turkey with 12,000 tonnes of grain.
An empty Barbados-flagged ship, the Fulmar, was headed to the port of Chornomorsk to be loaded with grain, it said.
7:54am: UK says Russia's actions at Zaporizhzhia power plant likely undermine its security, safety
The actions taken by Russian forces at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has likely undermined security and the safety of the plant's normal operations, Britain said on Friday.
"Russian forces have probably used the wider facility area, in particular the adjacent city of Enerhodar, to rest their forces, utilising the protected status of the nuclear power plant to reduce the risk to their equipment and personnel from overnight Ukrainian attacks," Britain said in an intelligence update on Twitter.
Russia's intentions regarding the plant remain unclear after five months of its occupation of Ukraine. Its forces are probably operating in the regions adjacent to the power station, having used artillery units based in these areas to target Ukrainian territory on the western bank of the Dnipro river, Britain said.
7:49am: Russia ready to discuss prisoner swap with US, says Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow is ready to discuss prisoner exchanges with Washington through an existing diplomatic channel.
"We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that was agreed upon by Presidents Putin and Biden," Lavrov said.
A Russian court sentenced US basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison on drug charges on Thursday. Her sentencing could now pave the way for a US-Russia prisoner swap that would include the 31-year-old athlete and a prolific Russian arms dealer.
6:02am: Ukraine calls for Black Sea grain deal to extend to other products
Ukraine has called for the deal that relaxes Russia's blockade of its Black Sea grain exports to be extended to include other products, such as metals, the Financial Times reported on Friday.
"This agreement is about logistics, about the movement of vessels through the Black Sea," Ukraine's Deputy Economy Minister Taras Kachka told FT. "What's the difference between grain and iron ore?"
4:36am: Erdogan to sound out Putin on Ukraine and Syria
Ending the war in Ukraine and starting a new one in Syria are expected to dominate talks on Friday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan will be riding high from the diplomatic success of helping orchestrate the resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments across the Black Sea when he visits Sochi for his second talks with Putin in just over two weeks.
But there are tensions. The Turkish leader was told by Putin in Tehran last month that Russia remains opposed to any new offensive that Turkey might be planning against Kurdish militants in northern Syria.
Analysts believe these strains form part of the "competitive cooperation" that has defined the two leaders' relation over the past 20 years.
4:04am: Three grain ships leave Ukraine; NATO chief says Russia must not win
Three ships loaded with grain left Ukrainian ports on Friday under a recently concluded safe passage deal, the Turkish defenсe ministry and Reuters witnesses said.
The first grain ship to set sail from a Ukrainian port since the start of the Russian invasion, departed Odesa on Monday.
2:16am: Ukraine says it was forced to cede some territory in the east
Ukraine said it had been forced to cede some territory in the east of the country in the face of a Russian offensive, and the head of the NATO military alliance said Moscow must not be allowed to win the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week described the pressure his armed forces were under in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine as "hell". He spoke of fierce fighting around the town of Avdiivka and the fortified village of Pisky, where Kyiv has acknowledged its Russian foe's "partial success" in recent days.
12:29am: Canada will send military trainers to the UK to teach Ukrainian troops
Canada is sending military trainers to the United Kingdom to teach Ukrainians how to fight invading Russian forces, Defense Minister Anita Anand said Wednesday.
Up to 225 members of the Canadian Armed Forces will eventually be based in the U.K. for an initial period of four months, said Anand. They will work alongside counterparts from Britain, the Netherlands and New Zealand in training Ukrainian troops on the basics of soldiering.
"This is an all hands on deck moment for allies and partners that support Ukraine," Anand said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
An earlier Canadian military training mission based in Ukraine was suspended only weeks before the invasion began.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)